VOLANTE, ROWSELL, CHERUBINI, CAMPBELL AND DELUCA: Testing literacy today requires more than a pencil and paper

Three professors from Brock University and two from outside institutions came together to write a piece recently published in The Conversation about the need to revamp large-scale literacy testing for the 21st century.

The article was written by Professors Louis Volante, Jennifer Rowsell and Lorenzo Cherubini in Brock’s Department of Educational Studies, along with Associate Professor of Leadership and Educational Change Carol Campbell from the University of Toronto, and Associate Professor in Classroom Assessment Christopher DeLuca from Queen’s University.

The professors write:

Large-scale testing, or what many know as standardized testing, often carries important consequences for students. The results of large-scale tests may be used by schools or policy-makers to make important decisions such as grouping students by ability or assessing how well schools are doing.

Yet when it comes to literacy testing, while the competencies of literacy have changed in our digital, globalized world, the methods that many educational systems use to assess literacy have not.

One recent analysis of standardized tests in the United States, for example, found tests haven’t changed much over the last 100 years: tests are mostly multiple choice, with questions geared toward assessing skills like vocabulary, recall and comprehension.

In Canada today, on such large-scale standardized tests, students are likely to read a passage and answer a series of multiple-choice questions. Students might have an opportunity to write a short answer or essay response. Provincial tests, for the most part, continue to prioritize measuring traditional literacy skills of reading and writing with answers primarily communicated via pencil-to-paper. Such a testing structure forms the basis for public accountability in many provinces.

Across Canada, researchers and educators have documented the need to transform how the provinces assess literacy and consider more innovative designs. Testing should accurately capture what children are learning without detracting from authentic teaching and learning.

Continue reading the full article here.

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