The Cloze Question Type in Moodle and Its consequences for reading

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Reading Skills In Moodle Today: A Valuable Lesson And A Tool Straight From The 1950s

Reading is an irreplaceable experience that is under siege by the frantic pace of technology. Moodle and the EdTech world have made it easier to engage students through interactivity. But more often than not, technology sometimes becomes an excuse for both students and teachers, to avoid challenging tasks, such as reading.

A recent post on the moodle.com blog features the Gapfill plugin, which uses the Cloze (or gapfill) question type for reading assessment. Easy to set up, Cloze question types are powerful tools to evaluate reading skills. But testing is different than providing true learning opportunities, a mistake too common in EdTech.

Reading is a two-way relationship. It is brought together, or pushed apart, by language. The amount of interaction helps to bring readers and writers more in tune with one another. For the majority of reading interactions, understanding is a matter of upholding standards. Both sides have the right and duty to understand and be understood.

On the reader’s end, education’s part is to make sure that there is comfort or pleasure in the reading experience of their students. Also, that there is a valuable outcome in terms of new knowledge, information or insight. For the first part, exposure is the only way. Making students acquainted with as many formats and genres as possible helps them realize what it entails, what it can make possible, what it unlocks. It is an open-ended intellectual challenge.

The second part could also be open, unless we decide in advance what is worth for students to look for.

Standardized testing to measure readability from students is a response to quality requirements in educational policies. To be comparable, it must use texts written in a standard language. A test should only inform about a level of skill. Some reading testing reform advocates push for more “imaginative reading” content, which in this scenario, amounts to making sure we all imagine the same, good thoughts. In fairness, it is a way of allowing for a bit more literary quality in the testing-oriented classroom of our age.

Cloze is a testing activity. Proposed in 1953, it is designed to measure a reader’s ability to assess sense and meaning from small pieces of text. It works by replacing words with blank spaces on the paragraph. Test subjects must “fill in the blank” (another name for it), be it from a limited set of words or from the students’ own. Cloze-type questions have endured the test of time, featuring prominently on reading comprehension assessment, including foreign language, even to this day. The word “cloze” comes from closure and its origin is attributed to Gestalt psychology, particularly its “Law of Closure”. It establishes that humans perceive objects as complete, even when they appear with missing parts. If sentences are objects, arguably what a Cloze question sets out to do is check that we all get the same “whole”. So, no room for ambiguity.

Cloze has been subject to ideas about improvements or extensions throughout the decades. Today, its flexibility is still favored, which comes at a cost. Choosing the words to replace for blanks should be done with care, about which part of language it is being evaluated. Verifying use of connectors, synonyms or conjugation skills determines whether we leave out prepositions, adjectives or verbs from the paragraph. Random word removal is used to check whether a group of test subjects understands the same, but its outcomes cannot be associated to any one student competency. Leaving the last word of every sentence a blank should not be classified as a Cloze question, but perhaps mnemotechnical practice.

Moodle offers Cloze functionality out of the box. Available plugins make the Cloze question deployment quicker. Some of them are:

How do you invest in quality of reading and measurement for your Moodle students?


moodlerooms-logoThis Moodle Practice related post is made possible by: MoodleRooms the open source learning experience by Blackboard. Rediscover Moodle. Click here to learn more.