Saturday, November 26, 2016

5 Reasons to Use Norm Referenced Tests in the Classroom

*** This article I have written some years ago was originally published here. 

Teacher in front of class

Why Tests Matter 

To know how students do in school is perhaps the most important function of a test. Other than assessing how students have progressed, it also tells the teachers how effective the instructions are. Testing, however, isn’t as simple as that. Throughout the years, testing has been used to identify people who can be admitted into the best universities. These tests also serve as a report card for assessing the educational standard of countries. It has been the basis of continuous education reforms intended to improve the achievement of students.
Exams and their results serve important purposes. Generally, tests, whether at the end or the beginning of classes are intended to diagnose strengths and weaknesses of the individual class members. Additionally, they are used to track the progress of learning with that of the expected outcomes. They aim to provide further motivation for students to do better and for making certain adjustments in certain programs. They can also help with the quality of teaching.

What Are Norm-Referenced Tests? 

Students taking notes in classNorm referenced tests (NRT) are exams that evaluate or estimate how well someone performs compared to other members of the population. It tells whether a student performs better or worse than others who took the same test. Tests of these types are created and administered to students for comparison of performance. After the papers were rated numerically, students’ raw scores were statistically analyzed to compute for means. After this, performance levels or numerical grades are assigned. It is an effective way in identifying the differences between the class members’ performance, which might be useful in the diagnosis of learning difficulties or disability. Different from criterion referenced tests (CRT), NRT’s, measure students as compared with their fellow class members, making it easier for the teacher to track the direction of the lessons, and the effectiveness of strategies in teaching them. CRT’s track the student knowledge and NRT’s focus on where lessons can be improved.

Testing in the Classroom 

Girl studyingThe degree of attention state tests gets lesser attention than those given to classroom-based tests. Being the most frequent test taken by students, it entails major consequences that define how students are placed in the statistics of performance and achievement. Though sometimes misunderstood, tests in the classroom are main contributors of one’s grade point average, which is a very important figure in securing a slot for a university one wishes to attend.
Generally used to monitor and evaluate students’ learning and level of skill acquisition, classroom-based tests are useful in the diagnosis of a class member’s weakness and abilities, assigning of grades and monitoring of individual progress. This provides data to support teacher’s evaluation of one’s strategy and educational plans and in making decisions for curricular programs and processes.
Classroom tests are also effective in getting the overall picture of students’ achievement, whether one’s child is improving or failing. It helps teachers to easily spot weaknesses and recommend remediation. Additionally, results of exams given in the classroom give direct answers to the effectiveness of teacher’s instructions and therefore make it easier to adjust the techniques previously applied. For example, when all students get scores higher than what the teacher set as a condition for passing, it can be concluded that the instructional strategy employed is effective. Tests are roadmaps for teachers in designing lessons students can grasps easily.

5 Top Reasons to Use Norm Referenced Tests in your Classroom 

Tests are given to get direct insights on student’s level of learning and mastery. One of the most preferred way of grading and ordering students rating is the NRT. The following are the five known advantages of using NRTs in grading students:

5)  Ranking of students is based on the overall test performancePerhaps one of the most acclaimed advantages of using NRT’s in the classroom is the ease in grading students based on the over-all test performance of the class members. With NRT’s, teachers are able to find flexible ways of grading students and rating their performances. Unlike that of the CRT’s, where students are rated based on a standard. A classroom that adheres to NRT is more likely to rank students according to how they perform against their peers. Furthermore, many educators found NRT testing more student-friendly as it allows students to be graded in relation to their average level of achievement, making it a more realistic grading basis.
4)  Ease in monitoring students’ performance as dictated by norms
When the norms or point of comparisons among class members is established, it is easier for the teacher to place students along the rank of class members who either achieve or fall out of the academic trend. Since it is quite impossible to apply one general rule for all students, classroom-based tests directly and closely exhibit what should be done to remedy students’ weakness. Equally important, the trend of class members performance can tell the teachers whether strategies employed to deliver the curriculum has been fully helpful or challenging. In addition to that, remediation and enrichment activities can be quickly decided for both the slow and fast learners.
3)  Teacher-designed NRTs are motivating
Research has shown that exams designed and administered in the classroom are more motivating for students. This is because they tend to have a direct effect on their grades. Despite the annual state exams schools are to administer to the students, exams taken in the classrooms are taken more seriously as they are determinants of the general weighted average (GWA), which is essential in gaining college admission. Equally important, test results that help teachers diagnose success and challenges in learning can be obtained quicker than standardized tests that take time to get analyzed and returned to the teacher. Whatever trend is given by tests can be remedied by the teacher right away. Also, classroom based NRTs are cheaper to prepare, making it possible for teachers to design pretest and posttests.
2)  NRTs are effective and flexible measuresBecause NRTs are designed to diagnose weaknesses so proper corrections can be made, they are flexibly based on every classroom’s needs. Since the over-all results of state tests cannot address specific issues in all classrooms, teacher-made exams are effective in meeting the needs of students, making it possible for their educational issues to be solved and addressed. In addition to being flexible, NRTs in classrooms are motivating for students as they feel less pressured having to reach a specified benchmark or standard, which in turn make them feel anxious and frustrated. According to research by Kennon Sheldon and Bruce Biddle, students tend to perform poorly when they feel they do not have enough capacity to pass exams which are still beyond their abilities. Such feeling can be caused of failures, and exhibits of constraints to the delivery of the prescribed curriculum. Sheldon and Biddle added that when tests are known to provide rewards for growth and effort, like higher grades and recognition, they are motivating for students.
1)  Classroom tests graded through norms help build competence
If there is something great about classroom-based tests, it is their capacity to scaffold learning. Teacher made assessments are usually based on the fact that classroom lessons are constructed based on the continuum of skills and knowledge. They normally start with easier topics and gradually increase in complexity as the subject matter demands. This step by step testing bridges the topics and serves as a cue for the ones that are quite demanding cognitively. Exposures like these are known to build students ability to learn topics in increasing difficulty. Equally important, exams that do not tend to push students too hard provide motivations as they are easily achieved and aligned with what the students can do at a given period. Alexandra Usher and Nancy Kober, authors of “Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform,” claim that assessments should be motivating rather than anxiety-inducing.

Parting Thoughts
Student giving the thumbs up
NRTs are useful when teachers wish to compare individual standing with that of the other students taking the same assessment. Quite different from the CRTs that test mastery and learning based on a standard set. NRTs take the over-all performance of the test takers before setting a pass or fail mark. Consequently, when a teacher-made NRT is well planned and aligned with the national standards, it can be a cheaper way to determine the competencies and abilities acquired by the students. Since not all classrooms are the same, teacher-made test makes it easier for the students to learn according to the general phase of the class and the level of performance they exhibit after test results are out. NRTs are also one of the most effective ways to tell the specific needs of a certain classroom, necessary to make relevant reforms in school systems and curricula design. Lastly, because NRTs are less harsh and often foster competition, they tend to be more motivating and specific in addressing needs.

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