Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Grade Systems Part 4 - Testing

There were many things that bothered me about the structure of my undergraduate education program. One of those was that I was given no information on best practices in testing. Evaluating student performance is a vital component of every classroom. This happens in many ways and has many different names. Formative and summative assessments are two of the more recent names that have been applied to evaluating student learning. There are many things to consider when evaluating students.
  • What types of questions should I write?
  • Is it OK to use multiple choice? If so, when and how many?
  • Should students be asked to explain their answers in a math class?
  • How much should each question be worth?
  • Should I give partial credit or not?
  • How much of the test should be basic skills and how much should require higher order thinking skills?
  • Should my tests be summative or formative?

The chair of the board of directors at my new school told a story that I think is important for educators and for this discussion. His son was reading a book that had a genie and the ensuing wishes in it. The son asked, "Dad, what would you ask for if you were given one wish?" The dad said he didn't know and turned the question back on his son. The son responded, " at first I thought I would ask what the meaning of life is, but then I thought maybe that is not the right question. So instead I thought I would wish to know the right questions to ask."

I think a big part of writing tests is about asking the right questions(not just the ones on the test). What are some of the questions that you think need to be answered by someone writing a test?

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