Bergen Catholic is an all-boys secondary school that prepares students to be 21st-century learners. In a 2:1 (MacBook and iPad) environment, we felt the logical tool for assessment would be computer-based. Bergen has been a Lenovo 1:1 school since 2002–2003. We are starting year two of a four-year transition to MacBooks and iPads. All faculty at Bergen have MacBooks and iPads, as do the classes of 2018 and 2019. In addition, all students have access to all of their textbooks online, and some of our teachers are developing iBooks. We consider ourselves to be on the forefront of educational technology.
Our students and teachers are not strangers to computer-based testing (CBT). Our move to ExamSoft originated from a strong desire for a robust cloud-based testing solution. Our previous solution relied on students accessing a shared file on the school’s local area network (LAN). Although we have only been using ExamSoft since March 2015, all of our approximately 750 students took their final exams on ExamSoft this past year. This was truly a great moment for our school.
Our students and teachers embraced the new CBT format. Students and teachers learned together how to use ExamSoft by practicing together. It was truly remarkable to see teachers learning with students. My student technology team made sure laptops turned in for service were diagnosed and fixed quickly, so there were no excuses why a student’s laptop was unavailable. A pool of over 40 loaner laptops were available for student use.
Once students started taking tests with SofTest, they liked the immediate feedback each exam provided. They were able to review their mistakes and address concepts they did not understand right away, rather than waiting for a teacher to grade and return their tests. ExamSoft catches common student errors, such as missing a question, and it reinforces checking work. By encouraging teachers to use the Missing Answer Reminder, we saw a dramatic reduction in the students not answering every test question. Teachers were also able to ask new types of questions. A colleague in the world language department was able to administer the listening portion of her final exam via SofTest. Students listened to a phrase and then chose the picture that best represented it. The best part was that the students could replay the phrases as many times as they needed.
Bergen Catholic offers 16 Advanced Placement (AP) courses on-site and the opportunity to take more through Virtual High School (VHS). As an AP teacher, one of my biggest challenges has been finding time in the school day for a full-length AP exam. With ExamSoft, my students can take a full-length practice test at home within the parameters of a real exam. This gives them a real feel for sitting through a three-hour exam. Once they take the test, students receive immediate feedback, and then I target those questions that most of the class answered incorrectly and subsequently review those particular topics. I definitely see this as an assessment strategy for all students.
From a teaching standpoint, Bergen was able to get a glimpse of exam-taker habits, something that will certainly be studied in much greater detail in the coming school year. We are interested in how students take tests, how long they spend on each question, and how they navigate through each test (question by question, easy to hard). This data will help drive curricular decision making.
As an adjunct professor for over 10 years, I assess via CBT, so I felt strongly about moving Bergen Catholic in this direction. With the recent announcement that the ACT will be administered online in the future, other organizations will likely follow suit, and Bergen Catholic students will be ready.
About the Author
Albert Spiegel has led Bergen Catholic's 1:1 laptop program since 2006, providing technical support and instructional coaching to both students and teachers. He is also responsible for the school's various data systems including ExamSoft. Al builds Bergen’s master schedule and coordinates the report card process. In addition, he supervises the Computer Science department and teaches AP Computer Science. He received his BBA in Information Systems and an MS in Educational Technology from Iona College as well as a MAEd in Administration and Supervision from St. Peter’s University. In his free time, Al serves as an adjunct professor of education at Saint Peter’s University and an adjunct professor of information systems at Iona College.Follow on Twitter More Content by Al Spiegel