Thursday, August 25, 2016

Testing What You’re Teaching Without Teaching to the Test

Taken from: Cindy Decker Raynak and Crystal Ramsay, PhD, Faculty Focus.

Have your students ever told you that your tests are too hard? Tricky? Unfair? Many of us have heard these or similar comments. The conundrum is that, in some circumstances, those students may be right. Assessing student learning is a big responsibility. The reason we report scores and assign grades is to communicate information about the extent of student learning. We use these indicators to judge whether students are prepared for more difficult work or ready to matriculate into majors or sit for certification exams. Ideally, scores and grades reflect a student’s learning of a particular body of content, content we intended them to learn. Assessments (e.g., tests, quizzes, projects, and presentations) that are haphazardly constructed, even if unintentionally, can result in scores and grades that misrepresent the true extent of students’ knowledge and leave students confused about what they should have been learning. Fortunately, in three easy steps, test blueprinting can better ensure that we are testing what we’re teaching.

Step 1: Align objectives, assessments, and learning opportunities. 
Learning results from students’ engagement with course content, not from the content itself (Light, Cox, & Calkins, 2009). However, this is often not how we approach the planning of our courses. In our courses and lessons, we need to make sure that clear learning objectives drive the planning, that assessments are constructed to measure and provide evidence of the true extent to which students are meeting the objectives, and that, through the learning opportunities we provide students, they can engage with the content in ways that allow them to meet the objectives and demonstrate their learning. This is not a linear process—it is iterative, often messy, and shaped by contextual factors. Nonetheless, when alignment is a criterion for successful planning, we are more likely to be measuring what we’re teaching. We do have to start somewhere, and a good place to start is with learning objectives. Read More