A Journey to the Assessment

By: Xiaodan Tang

We experience (and are now probably tired of) many exams when we go to school. Everyone usually faces this dilemma: we understand every word that our teachers said in class, and every concept in the textbook, but we still don’t know how to answer questions presented in the test. Sometimes we are struggling with how to organize information we learned to solve problems and sometimes the questions in the exam seem to be irrelevant to what we have learned.

In order to improve tests, making them more representative of our competence, teachers and researchers are working hard and bringing different perspectives to our project. For example, many people try to make changes to test formats and choose the best fit for different groups of test takers. Some people research on the performance analysis models and strive for identifying the best fit measurement model for the population of test takers. In our ACTMA project, we aim to understand how students process information and at what moment to assess their performance reflected on computational thinking (CT) skills.

As widely discussed in recent years, CT has been promoted as an important role in STEM learning. It is a type of higher order thinking that guides people to think and solve problems like a computer, based on a series of algorithms. We believe that instructors’ understanding of how students are thinking and processing what they are learning would improve when they use assessments specifically designed to show students’ thinking. Further, as their CT skills improve, their overall motivation and achievement would also increase.

Based on these assumptions, we plan to develop a set of performance tasks and ask students to talk aloud about their thinking process. Then we are looking at the key components of CT skills in students’ responses. The evidence we find from their responses will guide us to understand how students come up with solutions. In such a big data era, assessment serves as one of the most important tools to collect evidence on students’ performance. Let’s use a CT process to discover!

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