The Process of Selecting an Appropriate Standardised Test to Address an Educational Performance Concern Part 2
Testing is carried out to make comparisons against relative norms or criterion and find results which in turn educate and inform us of the most suitable actions to take. When we teachers do this correctly we can assist the pupils in the most appropriate manner. We can aid the children who are achieving below average scores and challenge and guide those achieving above average scores also. Testing is a crucial part of teaching today. It is a means of assessing progress and guiding future learning in the class. It aides teachers and their assistances with their own forms of classroom continuum assessment methods. There are numerous standardised tests available to teachers today, MICRA T, Drumcondras, MIST, Cognitive Ability Tests, to name but a few. Access to these tests allow teachers to obtain highly informative, relative and comparative information without engaging in an extremely time consuming process.
Currently I am teaching a mixed fourth class group. I am finding that a number of students appear to be struggling with the course work, not just with a single particular subject area and often will need more assistance from the integration aide / teachers assistant. This is surprising as the previous class teacher had told me that “they were a well able group, but lacking motivation”. This teacher has previously carried out a Primary Drumcondra Reading and a Drumcondra Primary Mathematics test on these children. I have examined their scores and was slightly surprised by a number of them. I decided to assess the class with a standardised ability test, I choose the Cognitive Ability Test (CAT) as I felt its structure and layout were suitable for this class group and it has a significant positive reputation. This test allowed me to further identify the level of ability of this class and examine how each individual scored in the test.
The results of a standardised test such as this would give me an insight into the needs of the pupils and highlight those well able and those who may benefit from further assistance. It would allow me the opportunity to alter some of my teaching methods accordingly, thus facilitating the strongest potential educational outcomes for those involved.
I undertook this test and found that the results were extremely useful. When carrying out the test I tried to ensure the results were most representative, by ensuring that the potential for immediate negative factors, such as stress, tiredness and interruptions were as low as possible and that the testing process was as comfortable for those involved.
The results indicated a discrepancy in a number of childrens scores, a number of children scored unexpectedly low and others surpassed what I had anticipated them to achieve. This test was a great eye opener for me in that it disproved some of my pre conceptions in regards to a number of individuals and their educational abilities and highlighted those who were working extremely hard within the classroom and those who scored lower than I had expected them to. I compared the scores with the previous standardised scores which this class achieved. I found that overall the correlation coefficient was quite high, O.69 and as a result, very representative. However a small number of individuals within the class group had a marked difference between their scores.
Undertaking this ability test with my class allowed me to further facilitate the learning abilities of the children, working closely with the class assistant / teachers aide. It gave me access to a ‘snapshot’ of the present learning ability of each individual. It reinforced and also changed my perception of certain individuals within the class group and their potential within education. Individuals who are under achieving and those who need varying amounts of individualised instruction were highlighted. It also allowed me to adapt my teaching methods to further promote active engagement and participation, such as group work and incorporate new strategies into my classroom e.g. the Jigsaw Technique, the Gallery Walk and Concept Sketches, ensuring that all students should have access to achieving their full educational potential. It is also worth noting that a small number of students, who are frequently unmotivated with school work, found completing this task to be satisfying. This was the first time this class had completed an ability test such as this. I believe it also helped motivate children and encourage them to be responsible with their own learning. I believe it raised their self-esteem in regards to their educational abilities and their future outlook on aspects of education.
These scores will be useful for future teachers of the class who, wish to gain an insight into the general ability of this class. I intend on completing standardised assessment tests, the Drumcondra Primary Mathematics and Reading tests with this class group, in the following spring. I have also recommended that this class undertake a similar standardised ability test in twelve months and that their tests be compared and all changes noted accordingly. Having completed this Standardised ability test I will be allowed the opportunity to ascertain if each child appears to be obtaining an education indicative of their ability. It will indicate if my teaching methods are positively assisting their learning as individuals and as part of a whole group. Though the completion of standardised tests I can reduce and be aware to the best of my ability of factors which reduce the validity of standardised test scores, such as teaching to the test, stress and pressure etc.
To conclude it is adequate to say that standardised tests have moulded the education system into what it is today. Modern day Ireland is witness to one of the most, positive, effective and comprehensive education systems ever witnessed. ‘Teachers need to continually collect, synthesise, and interpret information about their students’ learning. They need to know the state of knowledge and skills of their students before they can begin to plan instruction and they need evidence as instruction proceeds that students are, or are not, learning.’ (NCCA, Standardised Testing in Lower Secondary Education, Report 12, pg 14). We educators, teachers and teachers aides need to ensure that we work responsibly with standardised tests, not against them. That we aim to ensure that all tests are fair, appropriate and reliable, to the best of our ability. Also we need to ensure that we use these scores to alter our teaching methods accordingly. Standardised tests provide teachers with a resource that has much potential for improving all aspects of education. It identifies areas of concern and allows teachers the opportunity to improve on this, thus enhancing their overall teaching abilities. Individuals who are privy to be a part of this system have never had such access to achieving their best possible, potential educational outcome. As history indicates, standardised testing continues to adapt and advance to cater for the needs of the parties involved. I have no doubt that this will continue to happen.