A Proficiency Test in Technology
Certain considerations expressed in Reforms in Higher Education — A More Open System (Government Bill 2001/02:15) have prompted the National Agency for Higher Education to moot a proficiency test. The points raised concern genuine skills, alternative selection methods and the debate about the limited value of the new upper-secondary school grading system as a selection instrument.
As an initial step, the Agency has decided to devise a test for the Technology subject area. The idea is that test should serve as both a selection basis and a diagnostic tool. These two requirements call for a test that can be used for ranking examinees; as information enabling educational institutions to assess applicants´ knowledge and skills; and to assist students in deciding whether to pursue their ambitions to study Technology (in a broad sense) further.
Professor Ingemar Wedman of Stockholm University College of Physical Education and Sports has headed the project, with Leif Strandberg from the National Agency for Higher Education as coordinator. Staff from four other institutions — Umeå University, University of Gävle, Stockholm Institute of Education and Växjö University — have also taken part.
Early on, the project group agreed to establish a three-part test prototype and computerise the test. The three parts include a section on applied technology that tests examinees´ general knowledge of technology. In the second section, examinees must comment (briefly) in writing on a series of illustrations depicting a process with some technical content (such as assembling a bookshelf). The third section consists of a multimedia technology test aimed at measuring the examinee´s problem-solving ability. In the particular example described, the examinee must distribute a number of plants around a site in the spots most favourable to growth. The requirements for the assignment are well described on the screen. Using the mouse, the examinee can then solve the problem one step at a time.
One key feature of the test now under discussion is that the student´s approach to a task can be documented much more thoroughly than in a traditional paper-and-pen test. This affords not only new scope for accurate monitoring of test quality, but also new ingredients for diagnostic use of information obtained from the student´s responses to the questions.
As a whole, the proposed test represents both established and new ones in the form of computerised tests that also make use of multimedia techniques. The test is to be web-based, to permit online distribution. The test is designed to be completed in half a day, including breaks. Making it web-based will also mean that the test can be implemented locally and, in the future, on a more individual basis than the usual tests available at present.
Stage two should include empirical investigations of the current prototype, possibly with certain adjustments, and it should lay the exact foundations for the detailed workings of the test´s selection and diagnostic functions. This second stage will culminate in a practical trial of the test. According to the project group, stage two should be implemented during 2004 and thereafter adjusted with respect to some details during spring 2005. A test should then be available and ready for use by 30 April 2005, and it will therefore be possible to use it for admissions in Autumn Term 2005. Universities and colleges will decide for themselves whether they wish to use the test in their admission procedure. In stage two, work should also begin on developing tests in other subject areas.