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Statistics Hacks by Bruce Frey

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Hack #28. Ask the Right Questions

If you are a classroom teacher, a job interviewer, or in any situation where you want to measure someone's understanding, you have a variety of ways to ask a question. Here are some tools from the science of measurement that allow you to ask the right question in the right way.

For more than a hundred years, classrooms have been an environment of questions and answers. Outside of school, tests are more and more common in the workplace and in hiring decisions. Even in my free time, I can't pick up a Cosmo without having to respond to a relationship quiz about whether I am "friendly" or "frosty" when it comes to meeting people at parties. (I'm frosty. Want to make something of it?)

Many professions have to ask good questions or write good tests:

  • Teachers ask students questions while lecturing or one-on-one in private conferences to assess student understanding.

  • Trainers write questions to evaluate the effectiveness of workshops.

  • Personnel officers develop standard questions to measure applicants' skills.

Anyone who ever has to assess how much someone else knows is faced with the dilemma of deciding what sort of question to ask to really get to the heart of the matter. This hack provides solutions to the two most common problems when writing tests or designing questions meant to measure knowledge or understanding:

  • How do I construct a good question?

  • What should I ask about?

Constructing a Good Question

For measuring knowledge quickly and efficiently, it is hard ...

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