Be an early adapter, with a new way to test

Thursday, 22 Apr 2021

Standardised testing is generally considered 'fair' because all students are treated the same. But does the approach confuse equality with equity? A new computer adaptive progressive achievement test is a fairer, more accurate way to assess.

Delivering a test of common curriculum content under identical ('standardised') conditions is thought to treat all students equally and allow for fair comparison between them.

But fairness is achieved only if all students start from approximately the same point in their learning, and the research tells us this isn't true. In fact, students in a single year level can vary in attainment by the equivalent of up to six school years. Standardised testing therefore can fail to adequately measure the outliers – the underachievers who haven't yet mastered the knowledge and skills required to succeed on the test, and the high achievers who need more of a challenge to keep growing.

ACER's Progressive Achievement approach – which helps teachers to consider the individual abilities and needs of students when administering tests and analysing the results – goes a long way to addressing this problem, but the existing PAT tests have necessarily followed the conventional linear structure and rely upon the most appropriate test level being allocated to each student.

Increased diagnostic power

Computer adaptive testing offers a more precise picture of what a student knows and can do in a learning area. Automatic assignment of entry levels eliminates the need for teachers to assign starting points. From there, students progress through a series of 'testlets', their performance on which determines the difficulty of the next testlet they see. The results are highly personalised test pathways tailored to individual learners, and highly accurate data about their capabilities.

Adaptive testing also brings an opportunity to explore results in different ways, and to diagnose student needs more precisely.

New insights from data

While PAT Adaptive assessments describe student achievement on the same scale as their conventional counterparts, they also bring expanded opportunities to gain meaningful insights into student performance. The PAT Data Explorer, which has been developed to support adaptive testing, allows you to sort and report data in a new way. Switch easily between report formats, student cohorts, items and more to interrogate the data according to your needs. It's online, instant, interactive reporting from within your school's account.

Meeting your assessment goals

Conventional assessments like PAT Reading 5th Edition and PAT Maths 4th Edition allow you to administer the same test items to a single group of students for easy comparison of their performance on common content. Adaptive testing is well suited for use in understanding the individual needs of students and providing rich evidence to inform teaching and learning.

You might choose to use adaptive assessments at the start of the school year to diagnose student achievement levels, then follow up later in the year to measure their progress. If it's more important to assess student performance against common content, administer conventional assessments like PAT Maths 4th Edition and PAT Reading 5th Edition in Term 1 and readminister either the conventional or adaptive tests at the end of the year as a progress check. Because they share a common described achievement scale, you can use adaptive testing alongside conventional tests as it suits you.

Adaptive assessments launch soon

PAT Maths Adaptive and PAT Reading Adaptive will be available for purchase in Term 3, 2021.

The good news is, if your school is currently using PAT Maths 4th Edition or PAT Reading 5th Edition, their adaptive versions – and the PAT Data Explorer – will be free to use in Term 2, 2021. If you're yet to try PAT assessments, our online school support team can help you get set up.