Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mario Chalmers, Moodle and Online Assessments

The NCAA tourney is over and my Jayhawks won it all. Thanks to Mario Chalmers I got my first good night of sleep in weeks. As I was drifting off my brain started thinking about school, but just for a moment of two.

Standardized test season is upon us. This year we are adding an online science assessment in addition to the usual pencil and paper varieties. I have a few thoughts on these new online assessments and wanted to share them with a larger audience to see what the response was.

(some low scores out of 40)

Last week I gave a short online Moodle-based test on material that was largely review. There was some stuff on phase change, pressure, and other weather related items. The scores were abysmal. I remembered something I heard from students last year after a Moodle test.

"I like Moodle tests...they are so easy. It is so easy to click when you don't know the doesn't feel like a real test."

Hmmm, I don't think students take a lot of online test so maybe it is more like a video game. Maybe the students think they are simply deciding how to cross a river in Oregon Trail. Should we caulk the wagons and float it or just pay for the ferry? In a game, it is an easy decision and there are no real-world consequences.

Tests are not necessarily the same because there are real-world consequences. I currently dedicate one block to helping my students to prepare for the high stakes standardized tests. Our school does a good job of organizing this and dividing up tasks. As more tests go online, I think that we'll have to rely on more on our anecdotal experiences and the growing research base to address how students approach online tests.

Will those online test taking skills need to be deliberately taught? Is it really any different than paper/pencil? Are the scores really lower or is it just easier to generate statistics? Are some students more disadvantaged because of tests going online?

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