Teacher journal archive (2008-2011)

Article Title

The age of reason : being an investigation of verbal, quantitative and abstract reasoning skills


Most tests in schools are curriculum-based achievement tests, designed to determine whether students reached a benchmark of sufficient knowledge to enable them to progress to the next stage of their education. Gaining ground as a complement to achievement tests are scholastic ability tests. These are designed to measure whether students are able to think logically and work their way through problems they have not encountered in a classroom. Since these tests are not based on any particular curriculum, the information needed to understand the questions is supplied as part of the test. Under these conditions, a test of recall ability becomes pointless. Instead, these tests emphasise reasoning skills. Reasoning goes beyond rote learning as it takes as its base assumption that memorising something is not the same as thinking about it. The skills cited in Bloom's taxonomy have long been acknowledged as being a useful framework to direct education, enabling the tailoring of learning activities. The assessment of reasoning skills, however, is only now catching up to pedagogy. To address the need for tests of students' reasoning skills, ACER developed a series of Monitoring Skills Development (MSD) tests. This article outlines the aims of the tests, how they are administered and how the scoring is effected through the construction of a single scale onto which the difficulties of all items from all tests, regardless of year level, can be mapped and reported. The author discusses the comparison of ability versus achievement, the uses of the MSD tests, and how Year 10 results can be used as a predictor of likely results in Year 12 skills tests. All schools participating in the MSD program receive individual student reports and a database of results with students' raw and scaled scores. ACER also provides interpretive services. [Author abstract, ed]

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