Exam. Test. Quiz.
These are some of education’s most notorious four-letter words. As high school educators, these are the necessary sources of stress that allow us to assess student learning. While these methods are helpful in accomplishing the goal of student assessment, it is no longer sufficient to use our exams only for this function. We are doing a disservice to our school and students if we do not use our exams to assess our teaching methods, exam items, and courses as a whole.
Having created numerous traditional “bubble sheet” exams and spent countless hours hand-grading those same tests, I understand that this seems like an impossible task with not nearly enough time to complete. You’re thinking to yourself, “Wait, I have three preps, I’m coaching a sport, attending school events, meeting with parents, grading papers whenever I have a free moment … and you want me to add what else with my exams to that lineup?”
BENEFITS FOR ADMINISTRATORS:
1. Oversight on student achievement
ExamSoft is a web-based system for which access to exam content and results can be granted to whoever needs it. Therefore, school administration is able to track student achievement in each specific course, by class year, by individual student, and as an entire school.
2. Evaluate if learning objectives are being assessed and met
As teachers, we submit our learning objectives, but what is truly done with these beyond collecting them? Teachers and administrators can map assessment items with learning objectives to ensure that faculty members are appropriately assessing students and that students are achieving the necessary benchmarks.
3. Identify year-to-year trends
Are we making the appropriate changes within our school to positively impact student outcomes? The mapping feature and exam statistics provided by ExamSoft can help educators evaluate the curriculum as a whole and identify if we are making the proper decisions to affect student achievement.
BENEFITS FOR STUDENTS:
4. Prepare students for a collegiate atmosphere and standardized exams
More and more higher education institutions are using computer-based testing, as are standardized testing companies. We owe it to our students to best prepare them for future success. This includes providing them the opportunity to become comfortable in this testing environment.
No more waiting for teachers to grade tests—students can receive immediate feedback. This includes providing students with content-based rationales as to why certain answers are correct. Timely feedback is an immensely important aspect of the learning process that contributes to long-term retention of course materials. Fortunately, this frequently overlooked part of the educational process can now be easily completed.
BENEFITS FOR FACULTY:
Creating exams with a web-based program is just as easy as making a Word document with exam questions. Once exam day arrives, there is no need to worry about making copies or collecting exam materials—students simply complete the exam on a computer or iPad and then await their results. It’s an easy process that also helps with exam security and academic dishonesty! Think about it … no more paper. Ever.
7. Statistical feedback on student performance … beyond scores
Categorizing, or “tagging,” exam items provides the opportunity to learn more about student performance than we ever knew before. We can easily identify trends, review how students performed in specific content areas within each exam, and identify opportunities for improvement for each student. This results in improving individualized remediation plans for students while allowing us to review the success of each class as a whole.
8. Review performance of specific teaching methods
Should I have lectured or done team-based learning for this lesson? Was that a helpful review worksheet? I like using think-pair-share, but does it really help my students learn? Exam statistics provide the answers to all of these questions. As teachers, we can recognize which teaching methods and materials lead to the best student outcomes. Therefore, we can improve our instruction to increase student learning and retention.
9. No more hand grading or Scantron!
No need to elaborate here. Read that again and enjoy that thought …
10. Are my questions performing the way I need them to?
I had this question, especially when I began my teaching career. Unfortunately, I had no clue how to find the answer. Reviewing easy-to-understand, in-depth statistics on each exam item informs us if our questions are performing the way we intend. Additionally, once we have feedback on the difficulty of each item, we can improve our future exam instruction.
BENEFITS FOR PARENTS
11. Student portal—easy to keep track of your child’s performance
Parents no longer depend on teachers to complete grading or on their children to bring their exam results home. All quiz/exam results can be easily posted to a secure, web-based student portal, which parents can access to track their children’s performance.
It might seem like we are just transitioning our exams from paper to computers, but the information we can gather on student performance will help us improve instruction, curricula, and communication on exam performance. These are all major factors that will greatly contribute to achieving the ultimate goals in education—improving student outcomes and preparing our students/children for future success.