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Posts Tagged ‘assessment

The title of this blog entry was the name of a sit-com in the mid-1990s. It is also how I would title this assessment mistake.

I share the sentiment of the tweet. Who is Susan? Why did she suddenly appear? What does she have to do with the crayon drama?

This is probably a mistake on the teacher’s part. But it was a needless one. It could have been avoided by some thorough proofreading.

If we consider the SAT, the prime test for entrance to US universities, what does that test actually measure?

The video below provides insights into the history and design of the SAT.


Video source

It concludes with this sobering thought:

The SAT was created in the pursuit of precision. An effort to measure what we’re capable of — to predict what we can do. What we might do. What we’ve forgotten is that, often, that can’t be untangled from where we’ve been, what we’ve been through, and what we’ve been given.

The same could be said about practically any other academic test taken on paper.

The issue of “grading on the curve” raised its ugly head in the news. This time the headline was a bold declaration:

But there was more to the headline. The article highlighted a variety of curve equivalent and curve adjacent schemes. Then there was a university don’s claim:

The claim that was not substantiated seemed to be that grading on a curve was part of assessment and that this was useful feedback. Specifically:

  • How is grading on a curve part of assessment when the other entities in the same article also claim they have done away with such moderating?
  • How exactly does sorting students on a curve provide feedback on meeting course objectives?

I do not know if he did not elaborate, or if the journalist or her editor left this out. Either way we have a claim without explanation or backing. None of us should take unsubstantiated claims seriously. Thankfully none of us will be graded on a curve to be critical thinkers.

Assessment in the form of summative tests and exams is the tail that wags the dog.
 

 
Why the tail? Summative assessments tend to happen at the end of curricular units. How do such tails wag the dog? They shape what gets taught and even how it gets taught.

So one might be happy to read this:

But to what effect?

It might be too early to tell given that this movement has just started. There was this report that parents and tuition centres were not buying into the new policy. That report was a follow up to a previous one last year on how “tuition centres rush in to fill (the) gap” left by a lack of mid-year exams.

So is this a case of wait and see? Perhaps.

While some hair on the tail of the dog might have been snipped, the tail is still there. Like academic streaming, having one’s worth dictated by exams is baked into our psyche.

The MOE and schools can apply invisible pressure on stakeholders like parents and tuition centres by reducing the number of exams. These stakeholders might feel the change and pressure, but not see the point. It will take time and constant reinforcement that exams are not the be-all and end-all.

We live in testing times. Not just politically or environmentally, but also in terms of actual tests.

So here is a basic tip with multiple-choice questions like the one above: Use LETTERS as options instead of numbers.

This is the MOE press release that accompanied the announcement on reducing tests in Singapore schools.

First comes the policy shift (long overdue, in my opinion). Then might come the years-long mindset shifts. Next is the decades or generations-long behavioural shifts.

The press release ends as most documents that herald change do.

You could apply points 15 and 16 to any change in schooling, but that does make them any less true.

The stakeholders hardest to reach and change lie immediately outside the school arena, i.e., parents and enrichment tuition centres. This is what makes the change process arduous.

Like teaching, the policy announcement is neat. And like learning, the actual change processes are messy. It is time to muck about.

One of the replies to my tweet about the parliamentary response to stolen exam papers — electronic scanning and and marking of scripts — was this tweet.

I had to look up the product and service and found a UK-based website and YouTube video.

Apparently SurpassPaper+ allows students who opt to take electronic versions of an exam on their own devices alongside their peers who opt to take the paper version.

There are several advantages of taking the electronic version. The ones that stood out for me were:

  • Students use a platform they are already accustomed to.
  • The submissions are immediate and do not incur physical handling, storage, security, and transport costs.
  • Proctors can monitor student progress with an app and intervene if necessary.
  • Students can continue on an alternate device should their own fail them.

If all this seems innovative compared to the old-school method of high-stakes exams, then we should cast our eyes on how some standardised tests are regularly taken on Chromebooks in US school districts.

The change is also just an incremental one. Evolutionarily speaking, the new test animal is not that different from the generation before. It has not replaced the old one and actually lives alongside the incumbent species as a minority and novelty.

The bottomline is this: The medium has changed, but the method has not. Changing the medium is comparatively less disruptive and easier than changing the method of assessment.

To change the method is to face the usual suspects of barrier statements. I share just three and pose three questions as responses.

The first barrier statement is: We should not abandon what is good about the old or current method. My questions are: What is objectively good about it? From whose perspective is “good” defined?

The second barrier is an excuse: Now is not the time. My response are: If not now, then when? How will you know when the right time is? What if the right time is too late? How can we make it the right time?

The third barrier is a generalisation: Change will take time. My response is:
Of course it does. But when will you start?


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