“Personalised” or standardized testing?

Published in:  Education, Tests and Assessments

by Pisana Ferrari – cApStAn Ambassador to the Global Village

While cApStAn has collected empirical data on cross-language comparability of standardized test items, and recognises the value of standardized testing, we acknowledge that the approach described in this article is fascinating.

According to the author there will always be a place for standardised testing but there may have been too much emphasis on it up to now and the time has come to give it a serious rethink. U.S. results in international comparisons (e.g. PISA*) show no improvement over the past 20 years, despite an increased focus on standardized testing. Has this overreliance inhibited the ability to help students succeed in other dimensions? Are these other dimensions more important for employers, for example, when recruiting? Google is quoted as famously having said that it is no longer considering grades and test scores in its hiring practices.

Don Clifton, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, cited in the article, has introduced a new and thought-provoking “strengths-based” approach. He says that in testing one should be looking at what is “right” with people as opposed to pointing out their inadequacies. Standardized testing is designed to get every responder (student or other) to arrive at the same correct answer to a question. The assessment system designed by Clifton gives each responder a different answer. The CliftonStrengths online test aims to bring out people’s special and unique talents. The test measures detailed kinds of skills (34 to be precise) coming under four domains: strategic thinking, executing, influencing and building relationships.

Whereas standardized tests typically do not provide feedback to students other than scores, the Clifton test gives each responder individualized feedback, including suggestions on how to make the most of one’s potential. Standardized tests measure “convergent” thinking-all responders arriving at the same correct answer-the Clifton test encourages “divergent”, creative thinking, generating a number of different solutions. Eighteen million people have taken the Clifton test so far ($89 FYI) and the website is very interesting, so much so that we are tempted to try it out ourselves! http://bit.ly/2u7Kbj8

So, personalised or standardised? Maybe the solution lies somewhere in the middle ground, with test designers incorporating questions that help to bring out in students these other, equally important, skills. To quote the author’s concluding remark: “It’s time to shift from what’s wrong to what’s strong”.

* The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. cApStAn has been responsible for ensuring linguistic equivalence of all language versions of this large-scale international survey since its inception. In PISA 2018, this represents over 80 countries and over 100 national versions.

Link to the article: http://bit.ly/2DJYwBZ

Photo credits: © svidal via Twenty20