Evaluation: Thought Unit

One method of developing a multiple choice question that requires cognitive processing is to define a “thought unit.” A thought unit is a segment of material to be learned that is organized around one theme or focal idea. It is more expansive than an objective and requires more processing from the learner.

A thought unit is usually defined by a heading or sub-heading. The old method of developing questions is from an objective. Unfortunately, instructional objectives are often too limiting in terms of cognitive processing because they need to be measured and therefore are usually written simplistically and are designed to elicit thought processes no higher than basic recall. They tend not to get into higher level processing. A thought unit, on the other hand, is information covering several ideas and therefore can require higher levels of cognitive processing.

Once a thought unit is identified, summarize the information and determine the focal point of the thought unit. Once that is done, choose the type of question you would like to develop. Four different types are listed below. When writing your next multiple choice question, try to have it fall into one of these categories.

•Summarizing—Require the learner to select a phrase that is the best paraphrase a statement. It shows the learner understands the thought unit.(Which of the following statements best summarizes the idea of…)

•Predicting—Require the learner to anticipate the next logical step or cause/effect relationship. (Based on these facts, what will most likely happen next)

•Evaluating—Require learner to make a judgment.(Which is better, option A or B)

•Applying—Require learner to apply knowledge to a new situation. (Given a situation, determine the best course of action)

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  1. Anonymous May 8, 2008

    I have seen a thought unit called a cognitot in reference to an argument about who used the most cognitots – an internist or a surgeon. This was related to the argument about who should be paid the most. Internists felt they used more cognitots than surgeons and surgeons felt they used as many in addition to doing something physically. I can find no references to a cognitot on the web.

Karl Kapp
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