Published Online: August 17, 2007

Report Roundup

Computerized Tests Measure Problem-Solving

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In a federal study that could shed light on the potential uses of computers on large-scale tests, researchers have found that computerized tests can effectively measure large groups of students’ skills in problem-solving with technology—skills that cannot easily be tested with paper and pencil.

The study, released Aug. 16 by the National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, was intended to provide information on how computer technology can be used most effectively on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Researchers based their findings on computerized tests given in 2003 to a nationally representative sample of 2,000 8th graders, featuring questions with a strong emphasis on physical science. The directors of the study administered the test to students via the Internet in schools that had strong technology resources; in other cases, laptop computers were provided to schools, said Randy Elliot Bennett, a distinguished scientist at the Educational Testing Service, in Princeton, N.J., and the study’s primary author. The tests required students to answer open-ended questions, and to use cognitive and technological skills simultaneously, as they might in the workplace, he said.

The researchers were able to administer the nationwide, computerized tests with few logistical problems, and to score it in a manner that produced reliable results, Mr. Bennett said. While the study was conducted specifically for NAEP, Mr. Bennett said he hoped its findings could help guide state officials who are administering large-scale exams in various subjects by computer.

Vol. 27

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