Students have been complaining about high-stakes testing for years. But what about small-stakes testing?
The New York Times reports that two psychology professors at the University of Texas instructed their 901 students to bring their laptops to class to take a computerized quiz every week.
Seven general questions – based on the assigned material, and a personalized question based on something the student had missed on a previous test.
And in exchange for taking the weekly tests, there would be no midterms and no final exam.
So what happened? Well, the student rankings of the professors, who had both been very popular, plummeted.
Students found there wasn’t nearly as much time to party when you have to read. But what also happened was that fewer students cut class. Attendance went from 60 percent to 90 percent.
And by the end of the semester, the professors found that grades were higher. Not by a lot – but higher. And what’s especially encouraging is that the MOST gains were among students from lower income households. The reason being that they could see each week exactly what they needed to work on – instead of having to cram for one or two big tests, with no chance of recovering if they screwed up.
So, it appears that testing – in the form of frequent quizzes using computers – is a good thing.
As long as the professors’ egos can withstand the bruising.