A team of test developer and analysts from Educational Initiatives, Ahmedabad recently conducted a Paper Review and good question making Workshop for Government officials of a state who consisted of the core team of question paper moderators and textbook makers. The objective was to orient them to design and moderate balanced question papers that focussed on testing concepts rather than rote learning. The full day workshop included a detailed session on explaining the characteristics of good items and papers through a hands-on activity of question rating followed by discussion of the ratings given. There was an activity to identify misconception on the basis of question data as well. This gave them an insightful understanding on importance of asking right questions.
As it generally happens, convincing teachers who have been relying on textbooks for making of questions for years, is always tricky! And the first couple of slides often bring strong objections from them. Their guards go up immediately as they believe that the Government school children are weak and cannot fair well if the papers are based on conceptual questions.
However, as the session advanced, it became easier to make them resonate and understand the whole idea behind asking conceptual questions and by the time the session ended, they became open to learning more! Also, the whole idea of balanced question paper and importance of straight forward or familiar and non straightforward or non familiar types of questions, by then, gets internalized. By the time we completed the post lunch sessions; the officials were appreciative of the efforts and were open to ideas.
However, this set of participants was a little too tough to handle 🙂 When we tried to highlight the importance of misconception questions through identifying misconceptions, a couple of teachers just put their foot down saying that that was a ‘futile’ exercise! It took us some time, some exchange of words and holding the ground firm on this to make them go through the exercise. Though they did not agree in words, but as they identified misconceptions, I could see their eyes lighting up 🙂
We elaborated on how their school based assessments can also be made more conceptual, if they freeze the number of questions, sub skills and types of questions in advance for each round of assessment. That idea was welcomed by the moderators. The idea of designing rubrics was also completely new for them. We also explained how they can use the rubrics even for descriptive answer types to make the grading uniform by classifying criteria they should consider while giving marks.
It is true that Government school children have lesser resources and are underexposed due to socio-economic factors. However, to change the system, and to ensure conceptual learning, which is the way to bring socio-economic reforms, we need to start it at some point. Unless we challenge our own assessment systems, modify it and ensure that students focus more on concepts than on mechanical ways of learning or rote learning, the situation will not change!
Being on field and interacting with officials in the field of education give us a hope. Changes have started happening. Reforms are not big changes, they are the continuous efforts and being persistent and vigilant while being open to newer ideas!
By Gayatri Vaidya : Educational Specialist
(Member of Large Scale Assessment)
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