Do your students do better on paper/pencil tests than computer tests

Discussion in 'General Education' started by tchr4vr, Jan 14, 2016.

  1. tchr4vr

    tchr4vr Companion

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    Jan 14, 2016

    I have just noticed an odd thing. I just finished grading a set of EOC Reading practice tests. With the paper/pencil tests, I have a 95% pass rate (cut score is 56%). The same test, taken online, was only a 50% pass rate. The paper/pencil test was done earlier than the online test.

    Why do students do worse on the online version of a test? Plus, they had seen the test before, so it should have been a no brainer? This was actually totally done on accident--but it seems so odd to me.

    If my students were to take a paper/pencil test--our pass rates would be so much better.

    Why must all our tests be online? Is there anyway to change this?

    I'm sure I'm not the first to realize this.
     
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  3. cupcakequeen

    cupcakequeen Comrade

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    Our tests have been online since I started teaching, so I don't have anything to compare it to. Teachers who have been here longer, though, say the same thing you do, at least for our younger kids. Middle school students have laptops that they use almost daily, so they are pretty familiar with computers. Our elementary students have very limited exposure to computers, though, so using them on a test is both a novelty- so they pay less attention to the actual test and focus more on the fact that they get the computer- and they are also less comfortable with actually doing work on and navigating a computer, even on the super simple test programs.

    I really wish we could go back to paper/pencil, or at least allow both options, but it seems like that's the trend almost everywhere.
     
  4. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    My kids do far better on paper/pencil than computer.
     
  5. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    I completely agree with cupcake. Also, the distractions with the computer are severe. The computers crash, the programs crash,the kids sit closer together and distract each other more etc, etc.
     
  6. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Mine do about the same. I approach both with similar expectations, and make sure that if they are going to be testing on the computer, that they have the necessary experience to be successful (this was time consuming last year for our state testing, but will become less so over the years, I'm sure), just like I make sure they have the necessary skills/experience to be successful with paper/pencil.
     
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  7. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Better with paper/pencil. Some teachers that insist on going all computer, say it is because they are more familiar with paper and if we just spent several hours integrating the computer tests they'd do better. Not buying it. My students say they like the ease of flipping back and forth, actually writing on the exam, even the power they have as they use paper. Many students, my own children included, say that staring at the computer screen for a lengthy exam is exhausting and they finish weak because they just want to get it done.
     
  8. teacherguy111

    teacherguy111 Cohort

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    Jan 15, 2016

    Yes my students tend to do worse on a computer test also. But they need to learn it so I am continuing to do it. Computer skills are only going to be more needed as time goes on. Also... as a bonus. It grades the multiple choice for me :)
     
  9. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    There have been some studies done that show people comprehend better when reading from paper than a computer screen.

    I do believe that paper/pencil produces better comprehension and results for the majority of students. While on-line can help those who have trouble with bubble sheets, tracking on the screen during reading can be more difficult for them.

    I do believe that computer testing cuts down on cheating and allows for faster processing of results (when not dealing with brand new testing software).
     
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  10. Mr.history

    Mr.history Cohort

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    I feel like they do better on paper as well. I teach in a rural district where even high school kids often don't really know how to use computers. Every time I've administered these online tests its been a nightmare to set up and kids get stressed out over just the procedural parts of it.
     
  11. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I haven't noticed much difference between pencil and paper and computer based tests. I actually think they might do better on my computer based tests because the text is larger and each question is shown one at a time so it keeps them from getting distracted by the other questions on the test.
     
  12. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I feel whether a student does better on paper-pencil or computer has more to do with the teacher's expectations more than anything.
     
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  13. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    So as long as I expect my students with relatively minimal computer experience not to make a silly computer mistake while their scrap paper shows they meant to choose the correct answer, they won't? That's good to know.
     
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  14. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Teacher expectations do play a role, though by no means to the exclusion of familial or community expectations (e.g., the kid who has to balance desire to do well for the teacher with the need to not be seen as weird or uppity), tester expectations (many of which a given teacher in a given year doesn't control), the robustness of the technology involved, the tester's comfort level with the technology, the tester's general comfort level, the ambiance, and - last but by no means least - the quality and presentation of the test items. I've known adults who were discombobulated because a paper-and-pencil test unexpectedly didn't begin until forty-five minutes after the test report time; because the chair was too high, or the desktop was too small to allow the test booklet to be laid out flat, or all the desks in the room were right-handed; because someone in the room constantly sniffled or coughed or banged a pencil on the desktop; because another test taker was wearing enough scent to trigger the test taker's allergies; because the fluorescent lights kept flickering; because the proctor kept making entirely unnecessary noises... And those are adults.

    To the argument that a good test taker ought to be able to ignore such things and do well anyway, my response is that one doesn't turn unhappy test takers into good test takers by blowing off their concerns.
     
  15. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    I don't have any similar tests taken on both computer and paper to compare, but just watching kids take the online tests, it seems far more difficult to highlight and annotate text. My students are very diligent highlighters when they test on paper, and go back frequently to verify their answers. I'd say only 10% highlight on computers, and those kids usually have issues with highlighting the correct things (the computer's highlighter isn't as user-friendly).
     
  16. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    You can say this about just about anything grade3, little kids never never show work on scrap paper and then choose the wrong answer on multiple choice paper tests either, right?

    We can make excuses for anything.
     
  17. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    This made me laugh so much.
     
  18. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I give all my quizzes online. I haven't noticed a difference through the years of doing it. For me, I write more if I'm typing. I'm much more thorough when typing. It's also easier to go back and edit. I make sure my students are working with computers often.
     
  19. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    You can call it an excuse. I can call it reality. Without fail, I always have to adjust at least three student grades for every online test I give because they either missed the radio button and left a question blank or clicked the wrong answer/used the arrow buttons on the keyboard incorrectly which changed their answer (and then there was the nightmare where the system registered five different answers from those that I saw a student enter). I've learned to always have students write down their intended answers so that I can compare them to the system later. I will not be able to get a highly effective rating on my evaluation for this school year, because a student typed in 4 pounds 8 ounces when the system was only prepared to accept 4.5 pounds when the system was only anticipating 4.5, 4 1/2, 4.50, or 4 5/10 as potential answers. Don't try to tell me it's an excuse.
     
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  20. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Same thing teachers have said for years about paper-pencil tests and bubble scantrons. Paper-pencil tests and circling the correct answer on a multiple choice test...the list goes on.
     
  21. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I can't speak to those things. I've never given a bubble test (outside of state tests my first year of teaching, where I didn't have access to answer keys, etc). When I give paper/pencil tests, students either write their answers or circle the choices. I DO give online tests though, and I see clearly and undeniably that there are times when students miss questions that they should have gotten right due to computer issues, rather than knowledge issues. Again, this is not an excuse. It's simple reality.
     
  22. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Please explain to me exactly why you find my response risible.

    Notice, please, that I am not asking why you think I'm wrong, but why you think it is appropriate to respond to me, or to any other colleague whose opinion does not exactly mirror your own, with derision.
     
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  23. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    Our special ed students took their state tests online last year. The practice module was only one grade level so the only practice was not necessarily at the students' level from what the sped teacher said. That seems incredibly unfair. There were many neat features to the online test but the students with the poorest working memory were expected to remember all of these features. I don't know if the students would have done better on a paper/pencil test but I know the kids complained afterward about being tired.
     
  24. ocostake

    ocostake New Member

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    They try hard to cheat on computer test but most high school students did better on computers than on regular pencil and paper. It might be because they are more in their comfort zone on computers than on pencil and paper or maybe it's because unconsciously they want us to know that they want some more change.
     
  25. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    I teach HS, and I believe that the students did better on the computer when it came to writing/composing, as in an essay. I can't say that there was the same advantage when working on the math sections. The PARCC exam was a stress, but the math seemed to be more so on the computer. I believe that the more we can get the students to compose when writing on the computer, the more comfortable they will be during testing. I would be intimidated doing high level maths on the computer without a lot of instruction - I go through a lot of scratch paper when doing math, much more than when I am creating essays or composing on the computer.
     
  26. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    It isn't fully based on the teacher's expectations, nor is it based completely on students' technological experience or familiarity. In the end, it's a mix of both - and in the world we live in, I think it's best that students become familiar and feel successful with both methods. Driving flexibility in students is important.
     
  27. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Of course it is not fully based on expectations and tone set by the teacher, however, I really believe most teachers underestimate this aspect or minimize its value.

    I think teachers who struggle with new technology pass this "tone and expectation" on to their students, even though in my experience students are not scared or frustrated with the technology.....it is the adults.

    This is my anecdotal evidence.
     
  28. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    I completely agree. The approach of the teacher makes a tremendous difference, and I've certainly seen examples of that here too - same grade level, same-ish subset of students, but different "reactions" to the testing due to different approaches. Just one of those two-sides-of-the-pendulum arguments that I feel like sometimes people go to one extreme or the other (as with about a billion other issues :p )
     
  29. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    That teacher attitude makes a substantial difference, I didn't deny and I won't. Most of the last two decades of my life have been devoted to preaching the propositions that testing isn't toxic, that competent test takers and learners are made-not-born, and that science, math, history, language, the arts, human development, and PE - and the myriad connections among them - are incredibly cool. The body of my work here on A to Z reflects this. But no one factor - including teacher attitude - suffices to explain all the variation we see.
     
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  30. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I agree, anyone that has taught primary knows that almost anything can have some effect and cause variation, including whether a student got cool ranch doritos instead of nacho cheese in their lunch pail.
     
  31. adeeb

    adeeb Rookie

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    Does anyone think it might be related to the use of two different mediums (pencil/paper and computer)? This might be geared more towards Math, but if a student is reading and highlighting the question on the computer, then going to do work on the scrap paper, then switching back to the computer to record his/her answer, that would affect his/her ability to focus for an extended period of time due to increased context switching. Compare that to having everything in one place on a pencil/paper exam, and it would appear the student is putting in less effort just to take the test with pencil/paper.

    Maybe another comparison can be done between pencil/paper and tablets. Assuming there's a tablet with a low enough pen latency to do math work, having everything on a single medium, the tablet, might affect performance for the better. This is just my intuition.
     
  32. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    I think sometimes, as teachers we focus on small things like this idea of context switching and the developmental impact of using bubbles on a test or the negative connotations of red ink on corrected papers, and we miss the forest for the trees.

    Will there be small differences? Yes. Will some students do poorly on computer testing while maybe others will excel? Probably. But good teaching will produce good learning regardless. Even if they miss a few because of clicking the wrong button, or losing a slight amount of focus from switching between scratch paper and the computer, overall if they are learning well, you will see a major difference in learning growth whether they're showing their understanding on paper or on the computer.
     
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  33. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    Mine is slightly different. I am good with technology. I'm often the one that sets up new software/hardware with friends and family. I'm the first or one of the first to find new programs to use at school. What I am not is someone that thinks just because something plugs into an outlet, it is better. I don't get excited about "change" without knowing what that change means. I listen to my students and I know the limitations of my school. Going computer-based is about money and convenience for test administrators.
     

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