Standardised testing: What’s the point?

A pile of NCEA exam booklets, returned and mar...Image via WikipediaI would argue that “Assessment practice is at its most rich when assessment events are relevant, authentic and timely. Relevant assessment is that which is inextricably linked to learning outcomes designed to meet an agreed graduate profile (Biggs, 1999). Authentic assessment requires students to perform real-world tasks that demonstrate meaningful application of essential skills and knowledge. Timely assessment provides students with the opportunity to apply skills and knowledge gained as they learn. Teaching and learning in a blended format enables relevant, authentic and timely assessment that is greatly facilitated by the use of online tools, including self-grading, simulation and problem-based approaches, activities that require reflection and peer-review and the electronic delivery of assessment tasks.” (source)

So – I was aghast when I read Florence Lyon’s post today. What are the solutions? Are there any? Where next?:


A few days ago Year 11 sat the French NCEA which is the end of year exam here in New Zealand. As you might be aware the exam was of a poor quality. Some questions were of a level 3 instead of level 1. French teachers have complained and you can listen to a podcast of teachers expressing their feelings.
Of course like all the other teachers I am shocked and disappointed that my students were assessed to a higher level than they are expected to work at. But I am more asking myself about the idea of exams itself.

I actually do not know why students have to sit an exam at the end of the year. What is the point ?
So you work all year around, you learn everyday more French and at the end of the year you sit an exam and then what ?? 2 possibilities here : first you carry on with French or it was your last test ever in French. Either way you haven’t learnt anything at all from this exam.

In 2011, we have seen in NZ students using more and more ePortfolios in order to not only gather evidences but also to reflect on their own progress. To me, it seems it is pointless then to ask our students to sit an exam at the end of the year. I think it would be a much better idea to ask our pupils to sit an exam during the year, give them a feedback and ask them to sit the same exam (or another one of same difficulty) and see what the progress have been.

It is common practice in other subjects to pre-test student and then retest them later on using the same test (when the learning has taken place). By doing so students can see their progress and are given the opportunity to actually reflect on their learning.

What do the students do with their NCEA results ??

Yes I am outraged that the exam was of a very poor quality, full of errors and of a higher level, but for me the biggest complain is that there is no point at all to assess the students the way it is done now.

(this is a cross post from http://florencelyons.blogspot.com/ )



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About ictenhancedlearningandteaching

I am a director and consultant at Ethos Consultancy NZ (http://www.ethosconsultancynz.com/). I have a keen interest in all aspects of ICT Enhanced Learning and Teaching (ICTELT) where the focus lies on ways of scaffolding and empowering learners. In particular, I am interested in the way that creative, blended approached to Academic Professional Development can create trust, rapport and encourage reflective practice. As such, ICTELT is approached from facilitation, design, evaluation and assessment as opposed to the tools and what they can offer. I am a strong advocate of the potential of Web 2.0 to empower learners from all walks of life and cultures, especially after my experiences working for 6 years in the Middle East. In particular, I am interested how ePortfolios can be used in the VET sector (especially where Literacy and Language challenges are faced), in Recognition of Prior Learning, and in authentic, applied assessment. I have been involved with designing and developing ICTELT approaches and programmes for ten years. Following research informed approaches and design, I apply a qualitative, iterative process to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, programmes and tools, encouraging learners' voices and input from all stakeholders.
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One Response to Standardised testing: What’s the point?

  1. Pingback: Testing, testing… 1… 2… 3… « thewriteright

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