Friday, January 20, 2017

Standardized Testing and Personalized Learning

Here's an interesting thing I was reading this week:  a study by Hanushek and Woessmann has shown that improved academic scores in a country lead to improved GDP in that country.  However the academic scores measured by standardized tests are basically only science, maths and reading.  We know there are many other cognitive abilities that can also lead to success, in particular creativity, resilience and social adaptation also require cognitive ability, but these cannot be measured using standarized tests.  The premise of the study was that limiting assessments to just 3 subjects ignores a huge quantity of cognitive ability, and therefore a huge impact on GDP is not being assessed, and the call for action could be that a more holistic assessment of students' full cognitive achievements and abilities is needed by countries that want to really assess the impact on their GDP.

Standardized test scores are also not really effective in giving feedback to teachers about which curriculum and which lessons are most effective.  Since most standardized test take place once a year, it's hard to draw conclusions about which activities have produced those results.  For teachers, regular student assessments are more effective when the aim is to gather data that will guide learning and PD needs.  Parents also appreciate more timely information about their children's progress.  The best type of assessment for personalizing instruction is an electronic one where students are given more or less challenging questions based on their responses, so that the results provide a more accurate assessment of students' skills that a paper test.  In general, the conclusion that Grant and Basye come to in their book Personalized Learning: A Guide for Engaging Students with Technology is that online assessments are the most effective in helping teachers to get the support they need to truly help students using thoughtful, real-time data.

Photo Credit: The Advocacy Project Flickr via Compfight cc

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