Teaching and learning in an organized setting (the schools inclusive) are incomplete in the absence of comprehensive planned process to systematically and periodically gauge the extent to which the desired behavioural changes have occurred in learners. This is done through examination. The instrument used to conduct examination is the item tests. Therefore without adequate and appropriate testing, effective teaching and learning cannot be said to have taken place.
Test as a concept can be viewed as an instrument or a systematic procedure for measuring a sample of behavior. It is also a short examination of knowledge or ability consisting of questions that must be answered or activities that must be carried out (Hornby, 1998).
Test generally can be said to be a set of questions that elicit information from testee on the knowledge acquired as a result of participating in the instructional process. Test helps in the assessment of progress in education. This is because of the fact that through test, the level of achievement of educational aims and objectives defined in educational policy and outlined as topics with expected behavioural outcomes in the curriculum are evaluated.
The educational objectives which are assessed most often relate to the cognitive attainment, affective (Interest/attitude or social adjustment) or psychomotor skills. The particular domain of interest is what determines the type of test items to be administered to learners. But in order to achieve the goal of testing in education or any other field, the test instruments must possess basic qualities relating to reliability and validity.
These two basic qualities ensure the acceptability and the use of the outcome of testing in decision making. It should be noted that the relevance of test in education lies in the information which it provides. This is obvious as test itself cannot improve educational practice rather it reveals the strength and weakness in the process. Thus, the information the testing provides is needed for use in educational planning, decision making, forecast, and review of curriculum.
This means that test items and testing process must meet basic standard in a bid to provide useful information. It is necessary to note that test must not just be administered as a routine. It should only be done for a purpose with the sole aim of eliciting useful information for the purpose of the testing.
There are two types of tests used in schools. These are the teacher made test and the standardized tests. Each of these two test types is useful as each has its relative advantage and contributions to educational process and quality control.
As part of quality control mechanism, the Quality Assurance Department of Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board introduced unified examination for all public basic schools in the State. By this arrangement, the department now plans, sets test items, and produce the question papers in all the subjects taught in basic schools.
The thinking behind this arrangement is that teachers in various schools will strive adequately to teach all the topics in the school curriculum for each term. Their failure to do that will lead their pupils to either fail or pass the unified examination with low grade. The idea is laudable as the practice can truly ensure quality in the state basic education.
But this can only happen, if there are institutional support and adequate manpower backing the process. But contrary to the expectations of using the unified examination to improve instructional delivery in schools, barrage of complaints have trailed the unified examination.
Teachers and school support officers in charge of examination and quality control in schools at the LGEA have criticized the quality of the test items. They maintained that more need to be done to improve on the planning, writing, processing and packaging of the test items.
In response to the clarion call to improve the process of setting the unified examination, so as to improve the test quality, I wish to propose the use of standardized test in the conduct of the unified examination.
The department can mobilize personnel from the schools and LGEA to beef up her staff strength to develop the standardized tests in all the subjects taught in schools. The following are the basic processes involved in developing standardized test items.
1. Content Analysis: This means, that the test developers should have clear understanding of the contents and subjects matter from which the test is to be drawn. The content of the subject can be obtained by carefully studying the curriculum or recommended textbooks for the subject matter. The knowledge obtained from content analysis helps the developers know the subject matter, content and area of coverage to draw the test items.,
2. Review of Instructional Objectives:
The test developers should critically and systematically review the expected behavioural changes that are to be brought about in the learner as a result of participating in the instructional process. The instructional objectives are the traits that are tested in the testee. This means that the test developers should list out those traits by consulting the teachers’ lesson notes, or unit plan. The test developer must ensure that the instructional objectives reflect the different levels of Bloom’s cognitive domains (Knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation). At the basic education, it is suggested that emphasis should be laid more on the lower order levels (knowledge, comprehension and application).
3. Develop Test Blue Print /Table of Specification
Test blue print is a two-way grid table which specifies the level of objectives as they relate to the content matter or subject coverage. The grid cell in the test blue print indicates the weight assigned to each topic in relation to the instructional objective.
The weight assigned to the cell helps to determine the number of test item to be developed from the topic in relation to the instructional objectives. Test blue print equally helps to bring about accurate representation of the topics and the different levels of cognitive domains. Test blue print equally helps to bring about accurate representation of the topics and the different levels of cognitive domains. Test blue print helps to eliminate bias intestines development.
The weight assigned to each cell is dependent on the importance attached to the topic in the curriculum. Therefore, test developers should analysize the curriculum very well to avoid under or over representation of the topics in the curriculum.
4. Item Writing.
In writing the items, the format to be adopted is dependent on the nature of the test. Test items may be objective test, or essay-type. Whichever type the test is designed to take the test developer should ensure that:
– The language used is clear, direct and unambiguous.
– There are no clues to the right answers.
– Items are neither too difficult nor too easy.
– Enough time is given to complete the task.
5. Validity Analysis:
The test developer should ensure that test instrument measures accurately what it is designed to measure. In the conduct of test validity, the test developer should carry out the content validity (Using the table of blue print), face validity, construct validity and the criterion-related validity. A test may not be subjected to those four different validity analysis. The type of validity to subject a test is dependent on what the test is constructed to measure. For instance an objective test or essay-test cannot be subjected to construct validity analysis.
6. Reliability Analysis:
To ensure that the tests measure consistently the trait of interest it is designed for, the test developer must subject the test items to reliability analysis.
The following are different types of test reliability analysis.
i. Estimate of stability (This is determined using test and retest)
ii. Estimate of internal consistency (This is determined using split-half method.
iii. Estimate of equivalence and
iv. Estimate of scorer reliability
7. Item Review: This stage requires the test develops to scrutinize each of the test items to check its appropriateness. This process helps to eliminate most errors that may arise due to wrong wording or errors arising during processing.
8. Trial Testing: The test developer after reviewing the test items assembles the items and administers the test items to an equivalent sample of the group whom he developed the test for. The responses in the items are scored and assembled for item analysis.
9. Item Analysis: Here the test developer carries out individual item analysis, so as to eliminate those that do not meet the basic test item standard.
The following are different types of item analysis the developer has to carry out.
i. Item facility
ii. Item discrimination
iii. Item distraction
10. Item Selection: After carrying out the item analysis, the test developer selects the items that have satisfactory qualities for inclusion in the final form of the test.
11. Test Assembly: Here, the test developer arranges the test in the form it will be. At this stage the test developer is expected to.
– Group items of the same type together
– Arrange each sub-division of the test so that easier ones come first before the more difficult ones.
– Number all the items consecutively from the first to the last. State the time and direction for answering the question clearly.
12. Final Testing: When the test developer has assembled the test, he is expected to administer the test on a larger sample of students that are similar to those he developed the test for. The final testing phase helps the test developer to have correct idea of the general performance of this group on the test. Data collected from this group are used to establish the norms for the test.
13. Test Manual: On completion of the development of the test, the test developer writes the manual to guide the test usage. The manual usually contains information on the purpose of the test, how it was developed, validation, reliability norms, scoring and interpretation of the scores of the test.
14. Final Production: At this stage the test and the manual are printed, arranged according to schools and LGAs and made ready for collection. Obviously development of standardized test takes long time and resources, but the gains derived from the developed item tests are worth the pains. Test developers who cannot undertake the rigours involved in the development of standard test processes can resort to the development of teacher made test. But for the teacher made test to be useful it requires adequate planning and resources.
The test items currently used by Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education can best be described as teacher made test. It is not being criticized because it is teacher made test, and because of the process employed in its development and administration. The critics of the unified test items claim that the items are always hurriedly assembled.
Therefore, for the department to improve the quality of their teacher made test, they should as a matter of urgency.
– Set up a committee comprising of experienced teachers, and LGEA staff with relevant knowledge and qualifications to be setting the questions in good time.
– Commence the process of development of the test at the beginning of new academic term.
– Intensify their efforts in monitoring of the conduct of the unified examination.
– Ensure that teachers go to administer and mark the examination papers of another school.
Indeed, the business of improving education quality through examination is not one that will be achieved through haphazard arrangement. Therefore, if the sole purpose of introducing unified examination in the basic education sector is to improve quality of education provision, the department should take necessary actions to overhaul the process of unified examination development and administration; If not, the main aim and objectives will scupper, thereby subordinating it to the underlying interests of the organizers.