Posted by John Kleeman
Questionmark has recently published a white paper on trustable assessment, and we blog about this topic frequently. See Reliability and validity are the keys to trust and The key to reliability and validity is authoring for some recent blog posts about the white paper.
But what can you do today if you want to make your assessments more trustable? Obviously you can read the white paper! But here are seven actionable steps that if you’re not doing already you could do today or at least reasonably quickly to improve your assessments.
1. Organize questions in an item bank with topic structure
If you are already using Questionmark software, you are likely doing this already. But putting questions in an item bank structured by hierarchical topics facilitates an easy management view of all questions and assessments under development. It allows you to use the same question in multiple assessments, easily add questions and retire them and easily search questions, for example to find the ones that need update when laws change or a product is retired.
2. Use questions that apply knowledge in the job context
It is better to ask questions that check how people can apply knowledge in the job context than just to find out whether they have specific knowledge. See my earlier post Test above knowledge: Use scenario questions for some tips on this. If you currently just test on knowledge and not on how to apply that knowledge, make today the day that you start to change!
3. Have your subject matter experts directly involved in authoring
Especially in an area where there is rapid change, you need subject matter experts directly involved in authoring and reviewing questions. Whether you use Questionmark Live or another system, start involving them.
4. Set a pass score fairly
Setting a pass score fairly is critical to being able to trust an assessment’s results. See Is a compliance test better with a higher pass score? and Standard Setting: A Keystone to Legal Defensibility for some starting points on setting good pass scores. And if you don’t think you’re following good practice, start to change.
5. Use topic scoring and feedback
As Austin Fossey explained in his ground-breaking post Is There Value in Reporting Subscores?, you do need to check whether it is sensible to report topic scores. But in most cases, topic scores and topic feedback can be very useful and actionable – they direct people to where there are problems or where improvement is needed.
6. Define a participant code of conduct
If people cheat, it makes assessment results much less trustable. As I explained in my post What is the best way to reduce cheating? , setting up a participant code of conduct (or honesty code) is an easy and effective way of reducing cheating. What can you do today to encourage your test takers to believe your program is fair and be on your side in reducing cheating?
7. Run item analysis and weed out poor items
This is something that all Questionmark users could do today. Run an item analysis report – it takes just a minute or two from our interfaces and look at the questions that are flagged as needing review (usually amber or red). Review them to check appropriateness and potentially retire them from your pool or else improve them.
Many of you will probably be doing all the above and more, but I hope that for some of you this post could be a spur to action to make your assessments more trustable. Why not start today?