Wait. You thought testing was to judge how well you know your material? Isn’t that adorable!
You have to see who’s looking at the test and how it is used in relationship to the material. Sounds complicated? Maybe. Let’s break it down.
The teacher writes the test:
- The teacher grades it and the student’s knowledge is assessed. It is a tool to see how much the student has learned over the course. It may be a chapter; it may be a concept; it may be the entirety of the semester’s contents.
- The teacher grades it and the student’s understanding is assessed. It’s a tool to see how well the teacher has communicated the information or the concepts. This is done on a smaller scale so you will see pop quizzes. The teacher uses the testing and measuring to improve her method of teaching. You don’t do that at the end of the semester—it’s too late!
- The test is graded by a 3rd party. It could be a grad student or a computer. The assessment results in a graph of normalized behavior. This is a testing measurement, not a comparison to see if people in the class are deranged or mentally unstable.
If the bulk of the students are getting an A at 95% then the test indicates that the material covered is fairly easy to understand. If the bulk of the students are getting Ds at 70%, the material is very difficult. It is a test of the Material, not the Teacher’s performance or the Students’ performance. This information is used by colleges and institutions that want to limit access. The flaw in this is that the test cannot include essay questions because grad students and computers do not grade like the teacher does…knowing the individuals who are taking the test and the way they communicate. What do I mean by limiting access? On the secondary or post-secondary level, the test is given to discern whether the student can “test out” of the class. He or She already understands the concepts and the uses of the materials and can be admitted into a more advanced class. In sports, it separates those with natural talent from those with average talent. It does not measure the amount of work, dedication, and innovation an athlete has devoted to the sport. For instance, if the football or soccer try-outs include a 40-meter dash with a minimum time requirement, it doesn’t reveal how well the player manipulates the ball over those 40 meters, how well they can out-maneuver the opposing players, or how long they can sustain the speed. There are other tryout requirements, of course, but this test is the make or break for the aspiring player.
The teacher does not write the test:
When would this happen?!
- The test is generated by knowledgeable people in the field: academia, industry, or physical performance. It is supposed to exemplify the ideal qualities that indicate a high probability of success in the organizations.
- The test is generated by people designing an avatar that embodies the ideal qualities of the members of their organizations. These may be unrealistic.
- The test is generated by a computer based on the questions most missed in assessment tests in order to weed out undesirables.
In that case, let’s revisit the outcomes:
- The teacher grades the test. It is used to compare what the testing institution thinks is important. The teacher compares the answers of the students to the ideals set by the organization and then teaches to the test! It has no bearing on whether the student truly understands the material. It has everything to do on whether the student understands what the test writers think is important.
- There are no pop quizzes because the teacher doesn’t decide what are important components of the material. The main focus is pitting the students against the test writers.
For instance, in the 20 or so years I have been in the finance industry, I have never seen a viatical agreement…an agreement whereby a terminally ill person sells the “benefit” of their life insurance to another company in return for 50% of the benefit immediately. The company continues to pay premiums. On a $100,000 policy, the client gets $50,000 now to pay off debts, take a vacation with the family, or find alternative treatment procedures. When the client dies, the company, not his family, receives the $100,000. The company makes $50,000 for a 6–9-month investment. Yet, the insurance test had 7 questions of the about viatical settlements out of the 150 questions on the test.
- The test is graded by a third party. This is mainly a computer. Once again, there are no essay questions because computers cannot grade essays. It purports to assess the fitness of the individual for the position sought. It does not. It ACTUALLY assesses how well the applicant takes a test. The purpose of the test is to eliminate as many applicants as possible for such reasons as
- making the business appear to be elite
- implying that a higher cost for admission into this group is merited
- reducing the burden on the trainers by ensuring that the applicants that pass the test will be familiar with those testing methods and able to at least approximate knowledge of the material needed to be competent at the job
This kind of test is the most common test you will run up against!
This is insidious! When third parties get into the assessment of participants, many times the material deemed “important” is determined by people who have no idea what they’re doing. They can insert a political agenda into the curriculum. They can test on things that do not matter in the real world. They can insist on a bias or quality that is in no way related to the requirements of the job.
Imagine if the boxing association was run like this.
“All boxers should be equipped to defend themselves in the ring. They should be schooled in the correct fundamentals of both offensive and defensive strikes and blocks. They must take an 8-hour ethics course every other year and have a required 3-hour sensitivity training course every quarter. Gym trainers and coaches will enforce a strict uniform requirement. There shall be no policies regarding the color of the trunks, and all trunks should be no more than 4” above the knee when the participant is kneeling. Tattoos may be in black ink and have no racial or ethnic references. The fighters’ names can only be last names, no descriptive titles. Hate speech will not be tolerated.”
It sounds lofty…Mohammed Ali would not have qualified. Rocky Marciano would not have qualified.
Many tests in the educational system are devised by people outside the educational field. In fact, a teacher, having gone through four or five grueling years of classes and certification activities such as student teaching and tutoring, may graduate with honors and still be refrained from teaching in school systems because they must pass a state-required competency test. Remember that these teachers had to get by the educational access test required by the college to even get INTO the education-major program.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
When you are taking a test, consider the test itself. Is it a standardized test required by the government? Is it a standardized test required by the industry? Is it taken on a computer without essay questions? Then the results do not reflect what you know about the material, they just show how well you take a test. If the test is written and graded by a teacher, they are testing 2 things: First, how well do you pay attention in class or know your material, and Second, how well is the material