It is important to assess learner achievement in geography to ascertain how much each has learned. Whether geography is taught as integrated with the social studies or as a separate academic discipline, students need to reveal if there has been adequate achievement. Then too, the teacher may gauge his/her effectiveness in teaching when observing student progress in geography. The author will not go into the pros and cons of the integrated versus the separate subjects approach other than to say he has taught geography using both approaches. While teaching two years on the West Bank in the Middle East, he taught geography as a separate subject on the high school level. In the states, the author taught geography as an integrated discipline in the social studies on the elementary/middle school levels. As a university professor, he has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in teaching social studies with geography being considered as a vital subject matter area. This paper will discuss diverse approaches to be used in assessing student achievement in geography,
Criterion Referenced Testing (CRT)
CRTs are generally written and developed on the state level. Forty-eight of the fifty states in the union have some form of CRT. Thus, objectives for teachers to use in teaching geography have been written on the state level. The CRT is aligned with these objectives to provide for validity. Thus, the CRT measures student achievement as it relates to mandated objectives in the geography curriculum. What should a teacher/school administrator look for when assessing the quality of the CRT?
1. how the test was tried out in a pilot study.
2. how the test items were revised after being tried out in the pilot study.
3. how item analysis data from the pilot study printout was used.
4. how the test items were arranged sequentially for the final CRT.
5. how validity was increased from pilot study results.
6. how reliability was attained be it test/retest, split half, and/or alternate forms.
7. how balance in the curriculum was determined so that test items are adequate in scope numerically to assess achievement in geography.
8. how the subject matter in geography reflects higher levels of cognition such as factual recall, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation (See Bloom, 1971).
9. how the geography curriculum may be improved through using test results for diagnosis and remediation.
10. how the state used the CRT test results such as through report cards, increased or reduced school funding, or school bankruptcy laws.
CRTs need to be evaluated and revised as necessary. No test is perfect and each needs to do a better job of assessing student achievement. Based on test results, the geography teacher might well do a better job of teaching.
Selected states use standardized achievement tests to measure student achievement. Standardized tests need to have high validity and reliability data, generally provided for in the manual suction of the to be administered test. Standardized tests usually do not have an adequate number of multiple choice items pertaining to geography. The scope of test items needs to be broad so that it can measure needed geography learnings of students. If too few test items are being responded to, the chances are that the results will not be adequate to assess learner progress (Ediger, 1998, Chapter Eight). What is important to look for when assessing standardized tests?
1. how validity and reliability were determined.
2. how the norms of the test were developed.
3. how many students were involved in taking the pilot study tests.
4. how large the sampling error was when selecting students for the pilot study.
5. how large a standard error of measurement is involved in student test results. …