Item banking for innovative items and examinations in the UK
online resourceposted on 25.05.2006, 16:26 by Martin Roads, John Winkley
BTL, together with a number of partners, have been working with the UK Department for Education and Skills (England) to develop an item banking system to deliver formative assessment material for Key and Basic Skills teachers and learners to use as a learning resource. The Key and Basic Skills developments are part of the UK Government’s Skills for Life strategy which is designed to encourage learners of all ages to address their Maths and English skills and to ensure that they try and achieve a Maths or English qualification at at least Level 2. To this end, the Government has set a target of 750,000 learner achievements by 2007 and is supporting the Skills for Life programme with a range of both teacher and learner support mechanisms. Until recently, most learners completing a Skills for Life programme of learning would have had the opportunity to undertake a Literacy or Numeracy National Test which, although multiple choice, would have been delivered in a traditional paper based format. Over the last 18 months, however, an increasing number of learners have had the opportunity to take the tests using Computer Aided Assessment (CAA). One of these delivery systems was described by Chris Sealey and Paul Humphries in their paper to the 2003 IAEA conference in Manchester. Learners taking the tests using CAA have been able to book the tests on demand, receive the results immediately after the tests and to benefit from a process that has taken advantage of the technology available. The development of computer delivered items has provided the incentive and the opportunity to develop the item banking project described in this paper. Phase 1 of the project was completed on the 31st March 2004 and the system made available to teachers and learners. Proposals are now being finalised (as at end April 2004) for Phase 2 of the project. The first part of this paper provided an overview of the item bank system, the way it interfaces with item authors and the user features. However, the possible introduction of item banking into the UK examinations system and the potential for its wider use in accredited examinations raises a number of other issues in relation to the changes that would be required in the traditional examination process to take full advantage of item banking and CAA generally. The second part of the paper identifies a number of these issues and the steps that might need to be taken to address them. The paper concludes that there are many advantages to be gained from the use of item banks as part of the general development of CAA systems. Not only do they provide teachers and learners with a powerful formative assessment tool but they open up significant opportunities to revise the examination processing system. However, if they are to play an appropriate part in the development of high stakes summative CAA assessment systems, there are a number of process and quality assurance issues that will need to be addressed through appropriate research, pilots and trials before they can be adopted on a wide scale. In some cases, these issues are different for an item bank producing items for on-screen use as well as the traditional paper delivery formats.
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