Wednesday, July 19, 2017

tests make you testical if quizzes make you quizzical

I administered my language obstacle course the other day, and while my poor victims were sweating their way through it, I began thinking critically about the test's flaws, and about how I'd change the test if I were ever to write up an improved version. One thing I'd change is the test's focus. It's not a horrible exam, as exams go, but it is a bit all over the place, especially the grammar section at the end, which tests for several things simultaneously, such as knowledge of grammar, knowledge of grammatical terminology, and ability to proofread. That section could use a lot of retooling, and truth be told, the entire test could stand to be revamped, this time while keeping in mind the fundamental question of test design: what are you testing for? If you don't have a clear answer to that question, designing your test will be difficult.

This past weekend found me in the office, toiling away for two full work days to prepare an answer-explanation packet for my charges. I expected griping once I made the exam results known, and I got some griping, but it was all of the low-grade, good-natured, grumbly sort, expressed in the form of jokes and playful jibes, not as passionate accusations or teeth-gnashing. I had been worried that, in giving the test, I would be souring my relationship with a new group of coworkers, but they all turned out to be good sports. They thanked me for the explanation packets, and the few grumblers who did want to pursue a contentious point did so in a non-aggressive way.* To defuse the tension when I was giving out the graded tests, I doled out prizes in the form of candy bars, fruits (those were the consolation prizes), and a large tin of butter cookies. This seemed to be the right way to go, given that no fights broke out.**

The one lady who hadn't shown up last week showed up on Tuesday, and she has to take my test as well. I suppose I'll be administering it to her on Wednesday. I wonder what her reaction will be. One of her coworkers told me she's a big-time descriptivist, which means she'll likely hate the test. Oh, well.

*I got two complaints—one about hyphenation and another about commas between coordinate adjectives. I looked into the hyphenation issue and concluded the complainant had a point, but that there were plenty of authorities who swung my way on the question. As for the comma issue, well... that wasn't even worth discussing.

**The test has four sections, so I gave out prizes to the people who did the best in each section, and I reserved the giant tin of butter cookies for the person who had the highest overall score. The consolation prizes—ripe Korean plums—went to the two lowest scorers, who accepted their awards in a cheerfully sportsmanlike way.

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