To effectively measurement the extent to which learning is taking place, one needs to collect data using reliable instruments. In the physical world, measurement of the object’s features is easily done using objective instruments such a measuring tape, thermometer or weighing scale. However, the same does not hold for measuring the human mind or mental processes.
The practice of measuring what is in people’s mind is called psychometrics and is done using different aptitude and personality instruments to collect data on the cognitive skills, attitudes and personality. Aptitude tests measure the learners’ knowledge, abilities and skills while personality tests measure and reveal certain aspects of a person’s personality.
It is important that quality data be collected all the time to help craft appropriate learning interventions at classroom-, regional- or system level. Testing can be done using a variety of tests and one major problem most test developers face is how to set valid and reliable items that measure what they are supposed to measure. Some test developers set items in one area at the expense of others.
Others set their own questions to cover only low level objectives such as knowledge and comprehension. Yet some set confusing, complicated and repeat same items every year for different sets of learners. All these result in a mismatch between content taught and the material assessed. This lack of coherence leads to a test that fails to provide evidence from which valid judgments about learners’ progress can be made.
One strategy test developers can use to mitigate this problem is to develop a Table of Specifications. Sometimes called a Test blueprint, the Table of Specifications is typically constructed as a table, which helps teachers align objectives, instruction, and assessment thus ensuring that a test measures the content and thinking skills that it intends to measure.
The topics to be covered by a test and the number of items or points which will be associated with each topic are described, hence ensuring that the test is representative. The subject matter/content is listed along the rows and the different educational objectives listed along the column as shown in this Table.
Remember not everything taught in class can be set in a single test. Although the strategy is most commonly associated with constructing traditional summative tests, it is also used for a variety of formative assessment tests. There are many approaches to developing and using the Table of Specifications. Some contains the description of the types of items, suggests what might be covered under each item, and makes the decision on what types of items to be used. The Table of Specifications can be as complicated as the one designed for the 3-year course or as simple as the one designed for a topic content. However, the essence is to make the classroom assessment more valid especially with regards to content validity.
Validity is the degree to which the evaluations or judgments we make about our learners can be trusted based on the quality of evidence we gathered. The need for the classroom tests to be aligned to the content taught is paramount. When constructing the Table of Specifications, one needs to be aware of the purpose for testing and requires the syllabus which defines the content universe.
Once the Table of Specifications has been developed, a Test Plan can be drawn. Note, many parallel different tests of the same demand can then be developed using different Test Plans. Depending on the size of the content universe, the Table of Specifications can sometimes serve as a Test Plan. For example, the content for a Table of Specifications for a topic in Art & Design, can be narrow to an extent that it effectively becomes a Test Plan. Setting tests according to the Table of Specifications guarantees unparalleled success.
Yes, It’s Possible!