We need to be able to assess students and our own teaching at a more detailed level than what can be done with standardized tests. We need to be able to map detailed learning outcomes (or even sub-outcomes) to specific questions on tests. How are my students doing on this particular piece of vocabulary or component of a concept – something I only asked 2 or 3 questions about? Then we need to be able to easily grade and analyze the results. Can I get the grades, results, comments, and feedback to students electronically quickly even if the test was on paper in class? We need to be able to benchmark or compare our results to the results that others get. Do my students do better on these 3 questions than students at other schools? We need to be able to compare our own results at a the detailed item or question level over time. Are my students doing better this semester than the last few semesters on this item because I changed what I did in class? Did it work?
Standardized Tests Don’t Make It
The results of standardized tests are like getting the score of the game or the win-loss record of the team for the season. But they won’t tell us what specific changes to make or what topics/activities that need to change. Standardized tests lead to teaching to the test instead of testing the teaching. We need shared questions instead.
- We could easily break down our course learning outcomes into the sub-topics, detailed outcomes, and elements that we have to teach?
- We could easily with a click-or-two match those outcomes to specific test questions and test feedback?
- We could share questions with other professors who teach the same thing instead of either having to use the publisher’s test bank or write our own?
- We could assemble our own custom test that tests what we want but uses questions that others are also using?
- What if we could scramble the test questions or answers without affecting our ability to compare two tests from two different classes or semesters?
- What if we could grade a paper test with a paper answer sheet instantly and have the results provided electronically to students and us?
- What if our grade book allowed us to see how students from different classes and semesters have performed on particular questions over time?
- What if our grade book allowed us to compare how our students performed on individual questions with how students at other schools did on the same questions?
- What if this grade book integrated with my Learning Management System?
- What if my grade book allowed me to set up a grading system the way I want it to?
- What if we never had to re-enter or copy scores or grades from one place to another but could instead spend the time analyzing the results?
- What if adjuncts and new instructors could easily find out what the successful experienced professors are using in their tests?
- What if such a system was accessible and easy to use, no matter where we’re teaching?
We’ve been studying these issues for some time. We have some designs under development. We think these “What if’s” aren’t dreams. Instead we think they’re possible. That’s the goal of our Curriculum Intelligence Project.