In school practice, education is understood in a relatively narrow scope, namely as acquiring a specific set of knowledge, skills and habits, thus the results of education will be the knowledge, skills and habits mastered by students. Checking school achievements with tests.
Two components can be distinguished in the education process:
1) Student’s activity, i.e. learning,
2) The teacher’s leadership of the learning process, i.e. teaching.
This distinction emphasizes the two-sidedness of the teaching-learning process and the active participation of the student in this process, so the term “learning outcomes” is replaced by the term “student’s school achievements”, while “achievements” can be understood both in the narrow sense (i.e. knowledge, skills and habits), as well as in a broad sense, i.e. extended with educational and developmental elements, etc.
Determining the learning outcomes is a two-step process:
1) Checking the results of education,
2) Evaluation of these results.
Checking the results of education means obtaining as complete and unambiguous information as possible about the state of the didactic process and concerns the learners’ mastery of e.g. specific knowledge, skills, and habits.
So the subject of checking is the two-way teaching-learning process.
In theory and in pedagogical practice, the term “checking” is synonymous with the term “control” and both terms are used interchangeably. The basic feature of control should be its regularity, because only such control will allow to penetrate the education process and control it correctly, adapting all didactic and educational activities to the psychophysical properties of students. It is therefore not only about determining the level of student achievement, but also about the self-assessment of the teacher’s activity, about correcting it by selecting appropriate methods and means. The aspect of individualization of the teaching process is also important, which is not possible without control. An equally important feature of the control is its accuracy, i.e. the actual checking of the educational content that was intended to be checked.
Among the methods of checking school achievements, three basic ones have been distinguished: oral, written and practical. In each of them, certain types can be distinguished, which are classified in two categories, namely: traditional forms of checking and testing.
Traditional methods of checking include: class work, short tests, essays, products of practical activities of students, etc.
The second group includes those control methods in which the test is used, whether it is oral, written, practical, as well as with the use of examination machines. Checking the student’s school achievements allows to determine the amount of knowledge, skills and habits that the student has acquired in the learning process.
Comparing a student’s school achievement with a pattern determined by the curriculum or developed by the teacher using an appropriate comparative scale is called grading, and the student’s position on the scale is called ‘grade’ or ‘grade’.
The assessment plays a very important role in the didactic and educational process, and the difficulties occurring in the assessment were very accurately described by educationist that difficulty of assessing is related to the fact that the grades issued by the teacher have a pedagogical value only when they are correct from the point of view of social requirements and in the teacher’s and students’ conviction”. In other words, the assessment should also be objective in relation to the achievements of other students at the same stage of education.
Traditional methods of checking and assessing school achievement do not always meet the above conditions sufficiently. The main shortcomings of control and evaluation are:
1) Lack of recognition of the level of student achievement,
2) Inappropriate (one-sided) selection of the content of control tasks, inconsistent with the program requirements,
3) Failure to take into account the characteristics of a given item in the selection of tasks,
4) lack of systematic control;
5) Identifying control with evaluation;
6) Failure to introduce students to independence;
7) Improper control methods and its scope;
8) Inappropriate attitude towards control (underestimating or overestimating it).
Most of the shortcomings mentioned can be defined by the lack of objectivity of control and assessment of school achievements, and in particular the assessment of these achievements.
Deficiencies in controlling and assessing school achievements using the so-called traditional methods are largely removed by the use of the school achievement test, the essential features of which, are defined as follows:
“The school achievement test is: a set of tasks to be solved in the course of a school activity and adapted to a specific teaching content in such a way that the results can be used to determine to what extent the content is mastered by the subject.”
If we now assume that the mapping of student achievement on the appropriate measurement scale is called the measurement of school achievement, then the school achievement test will be a tool for this measurement.
Standardized tests of school achievement make it possible to compare the results obtained by students with the average results obtained during standardized tests and with the standards of requirements established in accordance with the curriculum. Precisely defined rules for scoring task solutions significantly increase the objectivity of assessing students’ achievements.
High validity of the test, i.e. compliance with the requirements of the curriculum, guaranteed by the appropriate representativeness of the content and teaching objectives, and the reliability of the measurement results, allows for the issuance of grades that are less objectionable than in the case of grades obtained with the use of traditional forms of checking. In addition, time is saved both for the measurement itself and for checking the measurement results, as well as the great ease of comparing the obtained results, and thus the students’ achievements, allowing for drawing conclusions as to the further didactic and educational procedure. However, this does not mean that standardized school achievement tests are excellent and should eliminate other forms of measurement entirely.
The disadvantages of tests, and especially of tests consisting of multiple-choice tasks, include, among others: the possibility of guessing answers and the ease of giving correct answers by colleagues. Moreover, this test does not allow the student to express himself / herself by applying an original solution, forcing the student into a certain pattern. Tests intended for multiple use in the same school, in parallel classes, require additional steps from the teacher to ensure that the test solutions are not disclosed and create certain difficulties when discussing the test results, because it is unacceptable to distribute tested answer cards to students and to discuss tasks with correct answers.
The presented advantages and disadvantages of the tests prove that the test is to be only one of the forms of measuring school achievement, not the only one.
School achievement tests may have different formal characteristics, which make them more or less useful for checking achievement under certain conditions. Taking into account their characteristic properties, the following division of tests can be made:
- a) According to the measured feature of the respondent’s achievements,
- b) According to the reference system of the test results,
- c) According to the design advancement level of the test,
- d) According to the range of application of the test,
- e) By type of activity performed by the subject to answer the test task.
According to the measured performance trait of the participant, the tests of school achievement are divided into power tests and speed tests.
The power test consists of tasks that are diverse in terms of content and difficulty, and in such a number that all subjects could undertake all tasks within the allotted time. The test results are to show the extent to which the subjects mastered the required activities. The measured trait of the subject here is the “power” of achievement – the ability of the subject to perform the appropriate activities in the time needed for it.
To check such skills as, for example: reading and counting, speed tests are used, consisting of easy tasks, homogeneous in content and in such a number that none of the respondents could solve all the tasks within the allotted time. This time is very short, usually not exceeding a few minutes. The measure of the respondent’s achievement is the number of answers provided, taking into account the number of possible errors.
According to the benchmark of testing results, school achievement tests are divided into discriminatory tests and assessment tests.
The content of the discriminant test is selected due to the differences in the current achievements of individual students. We include in them problems of such a difficulty that some of the respondents will solve them, and others will not solve them. Consequently, the test is well suited for distinguishing between the achievements of individual learners and specific groups of learners, it differentiates them well, but much less suitable for determining whether they have met the curriculum requirements. The frame of reference for each test result is different test results, not predetermined requirements.
Differential tests have two special varieties: selective and made to measure.
In the selection test, the difficulty of the task is adjusted to the severity of the planned selection of the subjects. It is about distinguishing as precisely as possible candidates who should be admitted from candidates who should be rejected, and we care little about the differences within these groups.
In the “made to measure” test, the difficulty of the tasks is adjusted to the level of the respondent’s school achievements. Two students of the same grade may receive two different difficulty tests according to their achievement in a certain teaching content.
This saves a lot of time and effort that would be devoted to solving too easy or too difficult tasks, if they really differ in level, and provides a more accurate recognition of the level of their achievement. Choosing a tailor-made test requires an initial knowledge of student achievement, usually possessed by teachers.
The validation tests are constructed on different principles than the discriminant tests.
The content of the proof test is selected due to the program requirements. We include tasks that check the mastery of the required activities, not taking into account whether they turn out to be difficult or easy for students. The test results tell us if the curriculum requirements are met, and it may turn out that all students met them or none of the students met them.
A variation of the proof test is the multi-step proof test. In such a test, specific groups of tasks represent the requirements for individual school grades. This construction assumes the possibility of distinguishing “basic” content from “extended” content, and “extended” content from “full” teaching content. The undoubted advantage of the multi-step test is that it is easy and theoretically correct to obtain school grades based on the scored test results.
Rarely found in school, and useful varieties of proofing tests are: diagnostic and omnibus tests.
In a diagnostic test, individual tasks or parts of the test relate to activities necessary to master some other complex activity. The content of the diagnostic test may relate to earlier parts of the curriculum, or may include activities learned by the student outside of school, through the development of innate aptitudes. In the latter case, the diagnostic school achievement test has some features of a psychological test. It is characteristic of diagnostic tests to refer to the causes of possible learning failures, and not only to register failures.
The omnibus test covers the content of many subjects without any distinction between these subjects when scoring test scores. It is sometimes used in examinations for adults who have left primary or secondary school quite a long time ago.
According to the degree of design advancement, we divide school performance tests into standardized tests and informal tests. Test standardization is the process of improving a test by trying out its tasks, establishing a precise benchmark for test results, and developing a test manual, a document that allows the user of the test to use it correctly. Test standardization is the effort of many people: the designer, the test subjects, and the test reviewers. As a result, the standardized test allows the achievement of each tested student to be compared with that of other students or curriculum requirements. A standardized school achievement test is called the informal test. The informal test is ready immediately after writing the tasks, which is its undoubted advantage. The value of its measurement is usually smaller, however, and can only be determined after testing.
According to the extent of application, we divide school achievement tests into broad-based tests and teacher’s tests.
Widespread testing is intended for use by persons other than its designer. For this reason, their standardization is necessary, as other users could carry out testing incorrectly or reach erroneous – especially far-reaching – conclusions from their results.
Widespread use tests are usually the work of design teams established by scientific departments or special enterprises. If the test consists of closed tasks – as is the case in most general-purpose tests – then we can read the results of the tasks using a simple template, punched or transparent, with the correct answers marked.
The Teachers’ Tests are intended for use by the developer only. His knowledge of the conditions in which the examined students work and the knowledge of the course of the didactic process preceding testing often result in the value of the tool being produced.
According to the type of activity performed by the respondent to answer the tasks, we divide school achievement tests into written tests, oral tests and practical tests. The choice of how to submit answers to test tasks is often dictated by convenience. When the activity tested in the test is a mental activity, its result can be recorded as well as it is spoken or expressed through the product of the activity. Often, however, the activity checked in the test is the same – or inextricably linked – with the act of giving the answer, and then the above division of tests becomes of fundamental importance.
When taking the written test, the subject writes down, marks or indicates the answers in a specific way.
Oral tests require the subject to speak some sounds, words or sentences that are responses to the test tasks. The examination must take place individually or in a language lab booth. The testimony’s statements can be recorded on a tape or scored directly by the tester. The test itself may be written on a tape, read by the test operator or read by the test subject.
The practical test requires the test subject to perform motor activities provided for in individual test tasks. The examined person works on the test individually or in a small group of people. Their number is usually limited by the number of teaching aids or workstations necessary for each subject to solve the test tasks. The activities of the subject are observed directly or judged by the product of his work.
There are many variations of the Practice Test. Some of them deserve a brief description because of their usefulness in vocational education. These are: employee, situational, “sticker”, “daily mail” and work tests.
The employee test consists in the test subject performing the experiments in an appropriately equipped school laboratory. Usually, there are fewer experiences than the test assignments, and each experience has a bundle of written assignments. This makes the employee test similar to the written test and allows for improved testing: subjects can move from station to station by carrying the answer sheet with them. Whenever possible, the course and results of the experiments should be monitored directly.
The situational test is based on the performance of a specific social role by the examined person in staged conditions. It comes from the tradition of military strategic exercises. The examined person is instructed to manage teams of subordinates or to perform some work in the company of people specially instructed by the tester.
The sticker test consists in determining the causes of a phenomenon by proper selection and use of information that is provided to the respondent at his request. The name comes from the original form of this test, containing messages (necessary and unnecessary) hidden under appropriately labeled cards stuck to the test copy. Currently, information is provided by the teaching machine. On their basis, the subject makes a proper diagnosis of the phenomenon.
The daily mail test consists in solving problems related to the activity in a specific position by correspondence of official orders. These problems are presented to the respondent in writing: in letters, messages, reminders, employee applications, etc.
The work test consists in the performance of individual professional activities by the examined person in a fully equipped workplace. This test may be analytical, when elements of complex professional activities are checked (e.g. elements of cut and sewing in tailoring science) or synthetic, when complex activities are tested as a whole (e.g., the execution of a specific type of clothing).
The applications of school achievement tests are manifold. The teacher can apply them to:
1) Recognizing the student’s achievements and shortcomings,
2) Assessment of the achievements of individual students,
3) Self-evaluation. School achievement tests can be used by school management, inspectors, inspectors, probation officers and the ministry of education and upbringing as some of the research tools.
Today, school achievement tests are most commonly used in three areas:
1) School performance evaluation,
2) Evaluation of the teacher’s work,
3) Selecting students.
Didactic measurement is a modernization of the checking of school achievements. Its further development will be determined by the extent to which it takes a form compatible with other components of the contemporary didactic system. The didactic measurement, overcoming the assumptions of the psychology of individual differences, should serve the achievement of learning goals, and not be limited to showing that these goals are unequally achieved by students.