By: Mubarak Abdessalami
Knowledge I guess is not to be tested, but rather the pupils' ability to recycle that knowledge which must be verified. Alvin Toffler said, "The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn" and I agree. Therefore, what are we aiming at in the end? High standards?! So to what extent do our testing methods serve this goal? Couldn’t we raise the unspoken question, how do we normally test our students?
We generally use standardized verbal instruments such as paper and pen tests. We want to see if our students have kept in memory what they have been learning during a term or so. This is somehow absurd! Preparing and designing a test is becoming an ordeal for most innovating teachers. What to test in the first place? How much knowledge had they kept in mind? Or how do they actually employ that knowledge? Testing knowledge in reality is not the problem! Everybody can answer questions. "I don't know" is an answer as well. The problem then dwells in the way each of us deals with the questions. The wrong answer is always one. It is not correct. Whereas correct answers are numerous, diverse and could be measured and levelled. What makes designing a test that hard, then?
The objectives have to be set first. What do we aim by designing the test this way or else?! The test should not decide on the correct and incorrect answers from the beginning. Is water a liquid or solid substance? This is an example. If it happens that the answer is not "liquid" the contender fails. This is testing knowledge; whereas the correct answer goes beyond ready made answers. Testing comprehended knowledge on the other hand is based on understanding. Water could be both liquid and solid (as well as gas).
We normally shouldn’t test facts but the way the candidates use and manage those facts. How they think and critically deal with knowledge is what counts most in modern testing methods. Knowledge is volatile. What is true today is likely to be wrong or useless tomorrow. The schema in this case is only a short-lived back-up. Therefore depending on the level of thinking skills, cognitive abilities, learning strategies and schema altogether that the answers should be evaluated and valued. Knowledge nowadays can be acquired easily thanks to the huge resources available on the net and via e-libraries. How the students handle and use the data is the nucleus of the testing design basis.
There are always excellent answers, good, and average ones; but there are also poor and mediocre, but acceptable answers. There is no longer something like correct or wrong answers in new testing methods. I repeat it again; we are not testing knowledge any more. Many other factors should be involved, notably, thinking, views, convictions, adaptability, analysis and eventually the updated background knowledge without which the other factors couldn’t work properly.
The correctors or the proofreaders are no longer those who know much, but rather the unbiased wise judges who can logically and honestly evaluate a particular answer in terms of specific criteria. If the answer owns all the traits of logical, rational, true to life and void of contradictions sane answer, it should be accepted as correct though it has yet to abide to predefined perfection standards. Excellent, very good, good, average and mediocre are actually evaluating terms we use to weigh the validity of a given answer and also the proficiency of the contestant.
Thinking deeply about the issue, we could save time and effort if we could just know and specify what we want our tests to look like. By the way there is nothing like hard or easy tests but all of these terms have to do with students’ levels of proficiency and the time allowed to the test and also to the clarity of instructions. It is no longer how much you know which evaluates the modern student; it is rather this and the ability to use, reuse and apply that knowledge in different situations.
(c) Madrasati @ Abdessalami On_Line