Test and Essay Items
Test and assessments are valuable tools that measure a student’s level of understanding using written objectives to evaluate proficiency of skill and achievement of learning outcomes. There are many useful formats that a teacher can use to evaluate levels of learning depending upon the taxonomy of learning the teacher is trying to measure.
Indirect formats of evaluation are among the most commonly used test in the classroom and may include multiple-choice, true-false items, matching items, and completion item test. Test such as these are favored over more complex test because they are less time-consuming for the test taker and test scorer. Test formats that use these kinds of items are generally used to measure memorization of facts including knowledge and comprehension taxonomies of learning; however questions can be formulated to measure higher level thinking skills through the use of good test constructs.
Essay items use direct formats of evaluation and are best used when a teacher is trying evaluate higher levels of cognitive thinking, synthesis and evaluation taxonomies of learning. Test such as these include include extended and restricted response questions, knowledge organization, open-book exams and dialectical journals. Restricted response questions are the most commonly used essay items in the classroom but there use requires more time to test and grade. They also require that the teacher to have a good handle on test construct and scoring. Rubrics can reduce errors in validity construct when grading essay items.
Performance assessments are used to enhance instruction in combination with other forms of assessments (paper and pencil methods & essay items) and measure complex cognitive leaning, attitudes and social skills of the student (Kubiszyn & Borich, 2010). They can be used alone when direct measures are needed such as those that require observation including dance performances, scientific experiments etc. Performance assessments can also be used to identify and observe patterns of behavior that aid in helping the teacher identify behaviors that are not easily tested such as habits of the mind (cooperation, sharing, and negotiation etc.). Details of performance assessments can provide better insight into a student’s cognitive abilities and the way their brain process information. According to Kubiszyn & Borich (2010), “performance test allow teachers to draw different conclusions about a learner’s problem solving ability than do higher –order multiple-choice test or restricted response essay test that ask learner to analyze, interpret, and evaluate information”. Performance assessments can be used as instruction along with the assessment, making learning richer and deeper. They allow teachers to observe learning as it is happening and may include group presentations, oral presentations and exhibits. Performance assessments are vital in order to have to a complete understanding of student abilities and behaviors that might otherwise go unnoticed using other measures of assessment. Performance assessments add validity to the entire assessment process.
Portfolio assessments are the icing on the cake sort to say. They celebrate student’s successes by providing a visual and written journal of the students work across a span of time. There are many advantages to portfolio’s including teacher, student and parent participation. The portfolio is a collection of student achievements and can include paper &pencil test, essay items and performance assessments (poems, art projects). It is important that teachers ensure content validity by including items that are representative and reflective of the students work. Teachers should include “at least eight products or tasks over different topic areas that reflect reliable estimates of performance from portfolios” (Kubiszyn & Borich 2010). It is also helpful for the teacher to have a rubric to ensure fair scoring and validity of the items that are chosen to go into the students portfolio.
Kubiszyn, T. & Borich, G. (2010). Educational testing & measurement: Classroom application and practice (9th ed.). John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ. Pgs. (185, 194, 209).