Monday, October 27, 2014

Testing to the Teaching

Very soon at ATI we will be releasing Instructional Dialogs that include Technology Enhanced (TE) items. The reason for this initiative is to further our goal of bringing assessment as close as possible to instruction. Everyone involved in education is well aware of the problems associated with teaching to the test. Instruction becomes narrowed and limited to prepare for the assessment. Learning is restricted.  However, if one turns that around 180 degrees and puts teaching at the head of the train, then there are many potential benefits.

Embedding TE items directly in instructional content allows assessments to match instruction in a finely tuned way that hasn’t really been possible in the past. Assessments can be built that reflect the steps that a teacher wants students to master in acquiring a specific larger skill. Say, for instance, that the focus of a lesson is the numerical fluency skills that will enable a student to easily calculate a problem such as correct change from $20.00 for a $4.30 purchase. Common Core emphasizes the importance of not only correctly calculating that $15.70 is due, but also completely understanding and being able to explain why the calculation works out that way. An explanation might go something like the following:
  1. $4.30 is $.70 less than $5.00 
  2. $5.00 is $15.00 less than $20.00 
  3. Therefore $4.30 is $15.00 + $.70 = $15.70 less than $20.00
TE items embedded in instruction afford a teacher with the opportunity to evaluate whether students have grasped what they have been taught and can provide a rationale for their approach.

It has long been recognized that such assessments are an important part of teaching. Recent technological advances make it possible to gather valid and reliable data of the sort that would have previously required standardized testing while not diverging from the focus of instruction. Assessment data that informs decisions and allows for easy tracking of outcomes can flow naturally out of instruction rather than being a distraction.  

John Bergan, Ph.D.
Vice President Research and Development

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