Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Computerized testing

I find myself in a place of tension as an educator.

Performance-based Activities

I've been thinking a lot lately about activities involving performance in the target language in order to test my students skills. Doing this I could still have a rubric for grading and I could be looking for individual things. Or I could have my students perform a task or solve a problem in the target language.

This approach is appealing to me based on backwards-by-design. I could design a unit and then have my summative assessment as some sort of task that students must perform so that I can lead them by the hand all the way up to that point.

And yet, I also feel as though I should give students that might prefer the formal version a test. So I find myself in this limbo between two types of assessment.

What does this mean for me? Well, one thing I would like to do potentially with this is to give students an option by the time of the test. Either they can take a written test or perform a task in the target language and both would be covering the same points, but would offer the students with a choice. I like this idea in that I could be tapping for multiple intelligences.

But at the same time, perhaps I could give students both and they would even each other out. Or alternate depending on the units. Some students will prefer the 'test' over an 'activity' because it's safer while others might like the risk of trying out the language for a purpose other than an 'A'.

Then there is testing. I change my philosophy each year on how I should be teaching my students and therefore, how I assess them. This is my fourth year of teaching and I have never used the same test. Every year I write it again. This year I am proud to say that I try to include different types of activities that are more focused on meaning and less interested in spelling because do I really care if the students can spell the word right? Or do I care more if they can use it to express themselves. How often will I have my students write on a piece of paper instead of speaking? I would think speaking makes more sense.

So testing should reflect their understanding without forcing them to worry about every single letter. Instead I can offer Cierto/Falso questions and even multiple choice and matching (something that I shunned before).

This year I have also decided that I would rather test my students over the computer in order to save paper and the hassle of subjectivity in grading. In addition, I can ask the students to improve on their first performance and to take notes on anything they missed. It doesn't mean anything extra for me if they are to retry the test.

The pictures to the sides are some examples of tests that I've been making through:

It's pretty basic to use and takes a little longer to make the tests for my students, but I see the perks as being higher.

Something I've wondered though is that because my school is small, I have to have to students go to the library to take the tests and that is changing the environment and taking them out of their 'Spanish' comfort zone. So scores might be slightly lower on the test due to inability to recall information as a result of the environment.

But thus far my Spanish 2 students have preferred the computerized tests and tomorrow I will test out my Spanish 1 students and we will see if they also prefer the format.

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