Teachers praise new assessment software

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2007, 12:00am

Teachers and principals who have been trying out software to improve their assessment skills have praised the technology, saying it will pave the way to a new culture of assessment.

Magdalena Mok Mo-ching, a professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, heads the scheme, which started last year and involves 97 schools. She expects 100 more schools to join in the next three years.

The institute introduced the Winsteps software to Hong Kong after obtaining a free licence from its developer, John Lincare, who lives in Australia. It helps teachers assess the quality of test papers and to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their students.

Professor Mok said she hoped to establish a city-wide database of test and exam questions that reflected a range of student abilities.

Mathematics teacher Cheung Lok-wah said that before using the software, she was able to obtain only a general impression of her students' performances, such as who had achieved the highest and lowest scores and the average grade.

She said the technology categorised students into different abilities by setting questions at different levels, and informing teachers of areas where students had done well and where they could improve.

'I can adjust my teaching method to cater for the needs of my students,' said Ms Cheung, who teaches at a primary school in Yau Ma Tei. 'It's like trying on shoes. I can make shoes of the right size for my students only when I know how big their feet are.'

The technology enabled Ms Cheung to recognise unusual ability in an ordinary-seeming student. 'He did not say much in class. But since then I have paid extra attention to him and given him more encouragement. He's now more able to explain his concepts,' she said.

She was also able to design better test questions. For example, the technology allowed her to see which multiple-choice answers were never picked by pupils - showing her how to improve the test.

But Ms Cheung said teachers should not blindly rely on the figures. Professional judgment should be exercised in deciding how to help students.

Chow Chi-kin, head of a primary school in Wong Tai Sin, said the introduction of the software had broadened teachers' horizons.

'The formation of a new culture of assessment is under way,' he said.