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Evaluation

Front-End Evaluation

To ensure that the exhibition is built on solid foundations, the development team conducted a number of preliminary studies to:

  • Identify the most salient reaction by the general public (particularly youth and children) to an exhibition on testing and measurement.
  • Establish the needs of the public with regard to evaluation and measurement.

 

In one initiative, 150 persons filled out a questionnaire, either online or on paper. The first question asked respondents to mention one long or difficult test that they had taken recently. The majority of respondents (104) noted math tests or high school matriculation exams, both of which are achievement tests. Only 38 noted selection and placement exams (a reflection of the respondents' age distribution). The main difference between achievement tests and selection exams is that the former assess one's command of a particular body of knowledge, and the latter are an attempt to predict future success in a particular area. The exhibition should address in some way the characteristics of achievement tests or the differences between achievement tests and selection exams.

Respondents were asked to identify topics they would expect to find in an exhibition on testing and measurement and to rate them on a scale, from most to least interesting. The following are some of the topics, and where they fell on the scale:

What is a "good" test? Most interesting: entertaining tests on "non-school" topics, theoretical information about tests (why they're needed, descriptions of different types, etc.), and examples of different kinds of tests. Least interesting: graphology, critical views of tests, knowledge-assessment tests, test-grading, reliability and validity.

Testing and society: Most interesting: tests throughout history. Least interesting: data on tests conducted in Israel.

Testing in the future: Most interesting: what your brain looks like when you take a test. Least interesting: alternative measurement techniques.

Given the impact of tests on society, we wanted to get some notion of how people conceive of the relationship between the two. We asked whether they could envision a world without tests. They gave their reasons for feeling that tests are indispensable. Some reasons related to selection processes in today's society: Tests are a means of comparing or ranking people; they help create order and are an essential feature of the modern, competitive world. Tests help to channel people in directions that match their abilities and are a fair way of categorizing people according to relevant qualifications. Other reasons related to learning: Tests are a tool of learning and motivate people to learn. They are necessary for quality control (to see if students have, indeed, learned), and they give people some indication of where they stand—what they're good at, what they've learned, what needs improvement.

Reasons given for why tests should be eliminated: Respondents stated that the world would be more pleasant and less stressful without tests. The argument was presented that there is no need for tests if we want to learn for learning's sake, and that testing is not the only way to evaluate people's abilities (job performance, for example). We included a specific question on how people view the Psychometric Test (used in admissions to institutions of higher learning). Some of the opinions expressed were positive (the test is important and must be conducted, it is fair, it contains good questions, and it is an effective means of screening university applicants), and others were negative (the test is difficult, stressful, and unnecessary, and it favors those of a higher economic standing). There was no clear majority opinion.

To elicit their ideas about the future of testing, we asked respondents whether connecting wires to the brain would be better than actually taking tests.

Those who answered in the affirmative noted less stress (caused by the testing situation, test anxiety, etc.) and more accurate measurements (a direct examination of knowledge, smaller measurement error). Those who answered negatively, gave as reasons, the anxiety produced by an invasive and unpleasant brain test, and the missed opportunity for learning (inasmuch as learning is associated with tests, this could be construed as one of the basic benefits of test-taking).

This question did not achieve the goal of eliciting a definitive view about testing in the future, as evidenced by the mutually exclusive positive and negative responses. Apparently, the question needs to be replaced by one relating to specific opinions or attitudes. Also, the questionnaires were filled out in a school, a setting which may have influenced the results. If we want to make further generalizations, we will need to work with a bigger sample of respondents, one that extends beyond museum visitors.

 

 

Focus Group of Teachers

Since teachers, with their classes, are potential visitors to the exhibition, we were concerned to know their views and so a specific meeting was arranged which focused on their input. We met with 17 teachers of science, math and English. At first, they were skeptical about the idea of an exhibition on testing, which they said was a dry, uninteresting subject. They began to show some enthusiasm when we mentioned the possibility of relating to testing in a more general sense. The teachers suggested that the exhibition focus on preparing students "for the next test" and dealing with test anxiety. They were interested in formative assessments and in all aspects of testing and learning; they also wanted to learn more about how exams are constructed and how children can be taught to better understand exam questions (something they pinpointed as a basic problem). The teachers expressed concern about the use of testing in the school system, which rates teachers, for example, according to their students' achievements.

Date Created: 19/04/10
Date Updated: 17/01/11