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Elle Reisenbuk: The new standard-determining e-tests in natural science are now ready

Elle Reisenbuk

Elle Reisenbuk, Senior Specialist of the Tests Centre of Innove

In autumn 2018, a three-year-long development process came to an end. The new electronic state-of-the-art standard-determining tests in natural science were born.

We cannot yet say, that these tests are completely ready, for we will keep on improving them, but our main goal is now met.

What is a standard-determining test and why are these new e-tests special?

Standard-determining tests map pupils’ knowledge at the end of the first and second stage of studies, i.e., in third and sixth grade. These are low-stakes tests that are not evaluated and are aimed at providing guidance and helpful tools for the teacher to organize further teaching more effectively.

What is new about these e-tests, is that for the first time cross-sectoral general competencies are assessed instead of specific subject-based knowledge. Pupils solve problems of natural science through research and decision-making assignments.

Pupils’ skills are assessed via a complex model of four attributes: knowledge of natural science, the ability to analyze, plan and interpret. These attributes are assessed as basic, intermediate or advanced in the first stage of studies and as intermediate, advanced or excellent in the second stage of studies.

Unlike previous standard-determining tests, the new e-tests are tools that support further teaching and learning. The student will not get a score, but a comprehensive feedback sheet with graphics showing which level he or she reached regarding each attribute. Attributes that the student was particularly good at are highlighted and possible future learning goals are set.

The teacher receives a similar feedback sheet for the whole class and the school receives a feedback sheet for all classes that took the test. These feedback sheets also provide instructions on planning the future teaching process. Thanks to a recently developed new mechanism in the Exam Information System (EIS), feedback pages are generated automatically.

The tests can only be solved in a linear direction – the student cannot go back to a previous task, for some questions can be answered in multiple correct ways. To keep the student on the right path, often a next task provides a possible answer for the previous task as a guide for solving upcoming tasks.

At the second stage of the study, the e-test also includes an Internet search task. In one task, the student must perform a virtual experiment and analyze the results of it by changing different parameters.

The timing of the new tests is also different from previous standard-determining tests. The tests are carried out in the upcoming autumn after finishing the study stage that the test is based on. This shows long-term knowledge and avoids excessive repetition.

Who were involved in the development process?

The development process was carried out in the framework of the programme “Development and introduction of modern and innovative teaching materials” in cooperation with a workgroup from the University of Tartu, led by professor Margus Pedaste.

Over the course of three years, more than 20 000 pupils participated in testing the new standard-determining tests, both in Estonian and in Russian. Ten teachers were involved in the conduction of the tasks and more than 90 teachers were involved in the assessment process. The tests are digital, but there are plenty of open-end questions that took a lot of time to assess.

The whole process was quite time-consuming. At one point it seemed that the assessment model is too complex, at another that the tasks or tests will not be ready for the right time, but in the end, all these challenges were overcome. This is particularly thanks to our excellent cooperation with Margus Pedaste and Meelis Brikker from the University of Tartu and our great colleagues here in Innove.

What lies ahead?

Cooperation with Margus Pedaste on the further development of the tests continues. We already have ideas on how to make the tests even better. According to the initial plan, new national standard-determining tests in natural science should be ready in three years – in autumn 2021. In the meantime, schools can use the tests completed in 2018.

New e-tests for the third stage of study and for the upper secondary school are also underway. The development of new e-tests has begun in other subjects too. The transition to e-tests in planned for all school stages in near future.

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