Tests? There is more than what we think!

In the debates on measuring student learning outcomes, we often hear critics repeatedly say “you can’t fatten a cow by weighing him all the time,” It simply means you cannot truly educate students by spending all the time preparing them for testing. But, Peter Drucker, one of the most widely known thinkers on management, famously said, “If you can't measure it, you can't manage it.” In other words, you can’t assess what you don’t measure. And, if you don’t assess you can’t improve.

In the educational scenario, testing, assessment, and evaluation are all tools used to measure how much of the assigned materials the students have learned and how well they have been making progress towards achieving the desired goals and objectives. As many education professionals point out, these are three different terms for referring to the process of finding out how much the students know about a given topic.

Caroline Minter Hoxby, an American economist and researcher, points out that the tests should “encourage teaching the curriculum, but discourage teaching the test.” Researchers confirm that the act of frequent testing actually improves learning because it allows students to focus on smaller amounts of information at a time. Understanding the differences between various forms of tests and familiarity with different test-preparation and test-taking strategies will help students build confidence in their ability to learn.

“Assessment is the engine which drives student learning,” said Prof. John Cowan, one of the pioneers of Engineering Education. It is the process of describing, collecting, recording, scoring, and interpreting information about learning. It guides students’ learning and communicates what is important to learn. In order to compete successfully in the ever-changing global work culture, students need to have confidence in their ability to learn and need to become lifelong learners. Assessments help them to be successful competitors.

According to Carol H Weiss, Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, “evaluation is the systematic gathering of information for the purpose of making decisions.” It is not only concerned with the assessment of the performance of an individual, but rather with forming an idea of the curriculum and making a judgment about it. It actually, attributes value to the information collected via testing or assessment. A common form of educational evaluation is grading like, ‘Pass,’ ‘Fail,’ ‘A’, etc.

Educational measurement is the science and practice of obtaining information about students, such as their knowledge, skills, abilities, and interests. It provides conclusions regarding their ability, achievement, or interests. It gauges their progress toward specific goals. It also helps to improve both teaching and learning.

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