Even though parents and the media value published test scores, most teachers do not rely on standardized tests to tell them what their students know and don’t know. Standardized tests occur so infrequently that one aggregate score is not very helpful in determining future instructional goals. Teacher-made tests, however, allow teachers to make decisions that keep instruction moving. Teachers can make changes immediately to meet the needs of their students.
The key to teacher-made tests is to make them a part of instruction—not separate from it. Tests should be instructional and ongoing. Rather than being “after-the-fact” to find out what students did not learn, they should be more “before-the-fact” to target essential standards.
Teachers also need to make adjustments in their tests for the various learning styles, multiple intelligences and learning problems of the students in their classes. It would be impossible to address every student’s needs on every test, but efforts should be made to construct tests that motivate students to learn, provide choices and make allowances for individual differences.
How can we design better teacher-made tests?
Most teachers will not have time to rewrite all their tests to conform to the guidelines suggested below. However, it is important to make sure new tests are designed to meet student needs—and truly reflect learning.
Guidelines for teacher-made tests
1. Create the test before beginning the unit.
2. Make sure the test is correlated to course objectives or learning standards
3. Give clear directions for each section of the test.
4. Arrange the questions from simple to complex.
5. Give point values for each section (e.g., true/false count for two points each).
6. Vary the question types (true/false, fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, essay, matching). Limit to 10 questions per type.
7. Group question types together.
8. Type or print clearly. (Leave space between questions to facilitate easy reading and writing.)
9. Make sure appropriate reading level is used.
10. Include a variety of visual, oral and kinesthetic tasks.
11. Make allowances for students with special needs.
12. Give students some choice in the questions they select (e.g., a choice of graphic organizers or essay questions).
13. Vary levels of questions (gathering, processing and application questions).
14. Provide a grading scale so students know what score constitutes a certain grade.
15. Give sufficient time for all students to finish.
Adapted from How to Assess Authentic Learning, 3rd Edition, by Kay Burke. ©1999 SkyLight Training and Publishing Inc. Reprinted by permission of Pearson SkyLight (800) 348-4474.