Thursday, April 30, 2009

Test Taking Strategies

I thought I might offer a few suggestions for your students as they continue taking the various tests that are administered at the end of the academic year. The list is definitely not inclusive, but just some of my personal favorites:

Prior to taking a test: (provided by
1. Preparation for your first test should begin after the first day of class; this includes studying, completing homework assignments and reviewing study materials on a regular basis.
2. Budget your time, make sure you have sufficient time to study so that you are well prepared for the test.
3. Go to review, pay attention to hints that the instructor may give about the test. Take careful notes and ask questions about items you may be confused about.
4. Ask the instructor to specify the areas that will be emphasized on the test.
5. Make sure you go to the class right before the test; it's another prime time for the instructor to give out more hints or the format of the test.
6. Go over any material from practice tests, HW's, sample problems, review material, the textbook, class notes...
7. Eat before a test, having food in your stomach will give you energy and help you focus, but avoid heavy foods which can make you groggy.
8. Don't try to pull an all nighter, get at least 3 hours of sleep before the test.
9. Put the main ideas/information/formulas onto a sheet that can be quickly reviewed many times, this makes it easier to retain the key concepts that will be on the test.
10. Try to show up at least 5 minutes before the test will start.
11. Set your alarm and have a backup alarm set as well.
12. Go to the bathroom before walking into the exam room, you don't want to waste anytime worrying about your bodily needs during the test.
1. Read the entire question before looking at any of the answers.
2. Formulate your thoughts. In other words, come up with the answer before looking at the possible answers.
3. Read all of the choices.
4. Eliminate answers you know aren't right.
5. Choose the correct answer.
6. If you aren't totally sure of the correct answer take an educated guess and select an answer.
7. Don't keep changing your answer. Your first choice is usually the right one (unless you miss-read the question).
8. In "All of the above" and "None of the above" choices, if you are certain one of the statements is true don't choose "None of the above" or one of the statements are false don't choose "All of the above".
9. In a question with an "All of the above" choice, if you see that at least two correct statements, then "All of the above" is probably the answer.
10. A positive choice is more likely to be true than a negative one.
11. If there is an "All of the above" option and you know that at least two of the choices are correct select the "All of the above" choice
12. Usually the correct answer is the choice with the most information.
13. Take the time to check all of your answers before handing in/submitting the test.

If you absolutely have no clue:
Try among the following recommendations offered by Dennis H. Congos, Certified Supplemental Instruction Trainer at the University of Central Florida:

1. Choose the most general answer when other choices are specific.
2. Choose the longest answer when others are much shorter.
3. Choose the answer with a middle value when other answers are higher or lower.
4. Choose neither of the similar answers.
5. Choose one of two opposite answers.
6. Choose the answer that agrees grammatically. (For ex: a, and an = singular, are = plural.)
7. Choose the answer most synonymous with key words in the question or statement.
8. Count the number of blanks in fill-in questions or statements.
9. Choose from among familiar answers. Avoid unknown options.
10. Choose the most logical answer to you.
11. Avoid answers with absolutes in them. (Examples are always, never, every, none, all, only.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I just found a new search engine while reading the Unquiet Library blog. According to the blog, "In a nutshell, Viewzi searches a wide range of content, including websites, videos, mp3 files , images, news sites, and Google Books; it can generate tag clouds related to your search and allow you to search content related to those tags, too!

I think students, especially visually oriented learners, will enjoy this graphic way of searching and exploring results! I am looking forward to exploring this fun alternative search engine.

You can read more about Viewzi in this Read Write Web article; you may also want to check out this TechCrunch article. Follow Viewzi on Twitter! for updates and news on Viewzi."

Here is a screen shot from when I searched for CareerTech Testing:

I did a few searches and really liked what I saw. Take a look and tell me what you think??? J.T.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

World Digital Library

Humanity's Earliest Written Works Go Online

PARIS (AP) -- National libraries and the U.N. education agency put some of humanity's earliest written works online Tuesday, from ancient Chinese oracle bones to the first European map of the New World.

U.S. Librarian of Congress James Billington said the idea behind the World Digital Library is not to compete with Google or Wikipedia but to pique young readers' interest — and get them reading books.

"You have to go back to books," Billington said in an interview in Paris, where the project was launched at UNESCO's headquarters. "These are primary documents of a culture."

A Web site in seven languages — English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian — leads readers through a trove of rare finds from more than a dozen countries. Among them: a 1562 map of the New World; the only known copy of the first book published in the Philippines, in Spanish and Tagalog; an 11th-century Serbian manuscript; and the oracle bones — pieces of bone or tortoise shell heated and cracked and inscribed that are among the earliest known signs of Chinese writings.

It also has early photographs, films and audio tracks. For now, searches on the site produce no more than a few hundred items in any category. But Billington says the project is ready to expand as other national libraries join in with the 32 libraries and research institutions already involved.

He insists the idea is quality, not quantity. "It's not an online bibliography," he said. "These pieces are one of a kind, or available in just a very few places. ... You don't get that elsewhere." The site provides page-by-page viewing of the original works, scanned in by the national libraries that took part in the project, often with multilingual narration by curators. It unites items about one subject but held in different countries, in a kind of online retrospective. "It brings together cultural heritage that's scattered around the world," Billington said.

The site is aimed at researchers, teachers and schoolchildren worldwide. While its offerings are fairly narrow, Billington sees it as a starting point, "an entryway to learning for those who are living in an audiovisual world."

The concept is modeled on the Library of Congress' American Memory project, which debuted in the 1990s and now has 11 million history-related items online. The partners in the World Digital Library project, including national libraries of countries from Iraq to Uganda and Russia, argued over how to finance it — the funding comes from private and public sources — and how best to translate it. But they all agreed on the need for such a global repository, Billington said.

He hopes it gets readers interested in a topic or historical period and then nudges them toward real libraries to read more about it. "Books have to be read so you can appreciate these treasures," he said.

I was sent a copy of the AP press release (thanks JLa!) and I thought you might enjoy another resource for research. The WDL also presents the following as their mission:

The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.

* The principal objectives of the WDL are to:
* Promote international and intercultural understanding;
* Expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet;
* Provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences;
* Build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Pygmalion Effect: Are You Guilty?

After administering hundreds of cognitive and achievement tests over the years and listening to a few teachers or even watching little league sports, I am aware that the Pygmalion effect does exist, but I wonder at what level?

According to Wikipedia, the Pygmalion effect, (or Rosenthal effect, or Expectancy Effect), refers to situations in which students perform better than other students simply because they are expected to do so. The effect is named after George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, in which a professor makes a bet that he can teach a poor flower girl to speak and act like an upper-class lady, and is successful.

The Pygmalion effect requires a student to internalize the expectations of their superiors. It is a form of self-fulfilling prophecy, and in this respect, students with poor expectations internalize their negative label, and those with positive labels succeed accordingly. Within sociology, the effect is often cited with regards to education and social class.

In the Rosenthal-Jacobson Study, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson (1968/1992) report and discuss the Pygmalion effect at length. In their study, they showed that if teachers were led to expect enhanced performance from some children, then the children did indeed show that enhancement.

The purpose of the experiment was to support the hypothesis that reality can be influenced by the expectations of others. This influence can be beneficial as well as detrimental depending on which label an individual is assigned. The observer-expectancy effect, which involves an experimenter's unconsciously biased expectations, is tested in real life situations. Rosenthal posited that biased expectancies can essentially affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophecies as a result.

In this experiment, Rosenthal predicted that, when given the information that certain students are brighter than others, elementary school teachers may unconsciously behave in ways that facilitate and encourage the students’ success. The prior research that motivated this study was done in 1911 by psychologists regarding the case of Clever Hans, a horse that gained notoriety because it was supposed to be able to read, spell, and solve math problems by using its hoof to answer. Many skeptics suggested that questioners and observers were unintentionally signaling Clever Hans. For instance, whenever Clever Hans was asked a question the observers' demeanor usually elicited a certain behavior from the subject that in turn confirmed their expectations.

The issue of teacher effects, on student progress, and how students rate those teachers is of huge importance. Tim O'Shea has said that in all studies where one of the variables was the teacher, the effect of different teachers was always bigger than the effect of different treatments (usually the actual subject to be studied). Basically, teachers have a huge effect, but it's poorly understood.

The Pygmalion effect is one big demonstration of the effect of teachers, showing they can double the amount of pupil progress in a year.

Feldman & Prohaska (1979) performed an experiment to study the effect of student expectations of teachers. One group was told their teacher was "quite effective," and another group was told their teacher was "incompetent." The effect of these positive and negative expectations were measured in terms of student attitudes toward the teacher, scores on tests, and "nonverbal behavior" of the students toward the teachers. The teacher was blind to what the students thought about him/her. There were clear differences in all three measures based on a positive or negative expectation. Students with a negative expectation "rated the lesson as being more difficult, less interesting, and less effective." Students with a positive expectation scored 65.8% on the test, and those with a negative expectation scored lower, at 52.2%. In terms of nonverbal behavior, subjects leaned "forward more to good teachers than poor teachers." There was some evidence that students with a positive expectation had better eye contact with the teacher. Overall, the expectation of the teacher affects overall learning outcomes.

I would like to finish with a couple of quotes from James Rhem, executive editor for the online National Teaching and Learning Forum. He commented:

"When teachers expect students to do well and show intellectual growth, they do; when teachers do not have such expectations, performance and growth are not so encouraged and may in fact be discouraged in a variety of ways."

"How we believe the world is and what we honestly think it can become have powerful effects on how things turn out."

In other words, as instructors, you have a tremendous amount of power and influence and you can change a life!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Before He Cheats - A Teacher Parody

The testing season is definitely upon us and I found a video that I thought you might enjoy. It's a parody of Carrie Underwood's video "Before He Cheats" and it deals with a cheating student from the teacher's perspective. It's filmed on location at the Rock School in Gainesville, Florida.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Culinary Techniques - A New Culinary Arts Product from MAVCC

MAVCC is pleased to announce the release of Culinary Techniques, ©2009. Techniques, the third book in the Culinary Arts series, explores the essentials of food production, including tools and equipment, stocks, soups and gravies, salads, hors d’oeuvres, breakfast cookery, meats, desserts, garde manger, and much more. The curriculum is designed to give students a solid grounding in the fundamental skills needed for work in the commercial kitchen.

The MAVCC Culinary Arts Series aligns with the American Culinary Federation competencies.

Books in the Culinary Arts Series include the following components: a student edition, consisting of a student guide and student workbook, and a teacher CD-ROM. The student guide contains unit objectives, information sheets and student supplements, while the student workbook contains consumable assignment sheets and job sheets. The teacher CD-ROM includes a crosswalk to ACF standards, instructional/task analysis, training and competency profiles, tools, equipment and materials list, basic skills matrix, academic and workplace skills analysis, unit review sheets, customizable tests and electronic presentations.

Other books in this series include:

Beverage Management
This publication gives foodservice workers the knowledge they need to get
started in the industry. Topics include: Beverage Basics, Wine, and Laws and
Responsible Beverage Service. MAVCC 2007

Culinary Concepts
Culinary Concepts whets students’ appetites for working in foodservice. Topics covered in the publication include: Introduction to Hospitality, Workplace Skills, Employability Skills, Business and Math Skills, Safety, Sanitation, Dining Room Service, Nutrition, Menu Planning, Purchasing and Receiving, and Management. Created and planned by industry experts and instructors alike. MAVCC 2006

Advanced Pastry Arts
Under Development! Units in this upcoming publication include: Baking Basics, Advanced Breads and Baking, Chocolate and Candies, Decorative Cakes, Pastries, and Confections, and Advanced Desserts. MAVCC 2009

For more information or to order, visit MAVCC's Web site at or call 1-800-654-3988.

If you are wondering whether this resource will work for you, go to and download a copy of the instructional/task analysis, crosswalk to the ACF standards, and sample teacher and student pages for this publication. They’re FREE and you will have a chance to review the content, format, and even try out a unit of instruction with the students.

I highly recommend all of MAVCC's products! J.T.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Questionmark and the CareerTech Testing Center

I wanted to let you know that you can now access the CareerTech Testing Center Blog at Questionmark!

Questionmark’s mission is to provide the highest quality testing and assessment software and support services to enable individuals and organizations reach their goals. Questionmark has powered the CareerTech Testing Center's online testing system for years and we are looking forward to an even brighter future with them.

They have also recently created their own Questionmark Blog which I highly recommend.

Take a look at a recent post by Greg Pope, Analytics and Psychometrics Manager for Questionmark:

The item total correlation is a correlation between the question score (e.g., 0 or 1 for multiple choice) and the overall assessment score (e.g., 67%). It is expected that if a participant gets a question correct they should, in general, have higher overall assessment scores than participants who get a question wrong. Similarly with essay type question scoring where a question could be scored between 0 and 5 participants who did a really good job on the essay (got a 4 or 5) should have higher overall assessment scores (maybe 85-90%). This relationship is shown in an example graph below.

This relationship in psychometrics is called ‘discrimination’ referring to how well a question differentiates between participants who know the material and those that do not know the material. Participants who know the material taught to them should get high scores on questions and high overall assessment scores. Participants who did not master the material should get low scores on questions and lower overall assessment scores. This is the relationship that an item-total correlation provides to help evaluate the performance of questions. We want to have lots of highly discriminating questions on our tests because they are the most fine-tuned measurements to find out what participants know and can do.

When looking at an item-total correlation generally negative values are a major red flag it is unexpected that participants who get low scores on the questions get high scores on the assessment. This could indicate a mis-keyed question or that the question was highly ambiguous and confusing to participants. Values for an item-total correlation (point-biserial) between 0 and 0.19 may indicate that the question is not discriminating well, values between 0.2 and 0.39 indicate good discrimination, and values 0.4 and above indicate very good discrimination.

Thanks again to Greg and QuestionMark for sharing all of the great information! J.T.

Monday, April 6, 2009

What Everybody Ought to Know About, is now offering the largest, most amazing collection of professional photography on the Web (currently over 7,000,000 and 3,000+ added every day).

LIFE and Getty Images, have joined forces to provide you instant access to millions of photographs — for FREE. Taken by the world’s top photographers and curated by LIFE editors, they tell the story of our times — our heroes, our stars, our celebrations and heartbreak, the events etched in our memory and the small moments that make life sweet. When you find a photo you like, you'll be able to share it, print it, and sometimes even buy it. You can also sign up their weekly "Picks of the Week" E-newsletter.

Life was once America's leading photo-centric news magazine, Life chronicled the nation and the world for seven decades before issuing its last print publication in 2007. Life's last editor, Bill Shapiro, who heads up the new project, wants students, teachers, and parents to use the site to make history more tangible. "The most iconic moments in American history -- we have those," Shapiro reports. "We didn't want simply to create a historical repository or a dusty archive. We wanted these events to feel as alive as they did when they happened."

Photos on the site are organized into five channels: news, celebrity, travel, animals, and sports. Visitors can print individual images and share them through sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Delicious. New features of, due to roll out in the coming months, will allow users to create their own photo galleries (on, say, the life and work of Maya Angelou, for English class, or animal life in the Everglades, for science). All the site's tools will be FREE.

The new site also allows visitors to flip through a series of Life covers on World War II or compare portraits of Miss America 1945 and Miss America 2009. A search for "civil rights" turns up 7,104 photos and 10 curated galleries on such themes as the vote, the Freedom Riders, and Coretta Scott King. A search for F. Scott Fitzgerald returns 21 photos. Albert Einstein: 187. Jackie Robinson: 248. Many of the photos and captions, taken together, tell a full story.

I had forgotten how much I missed Life magazine. I hope you enjoy this new site! J.T.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Why Do We Test Students?

After a few recent conversations I thought it was time to address why we test and there are typically many reasons for why we test (educational, psychological, legislative, etc.). At the present time, most educational discussions seem to focus solely on accountability and there are justifiable reasons for that. As long as money is involved, there will always be that argument, but that isn't the purpose of this discussion.

I would really like to get past all of the legislative reasons for conducting testing and return to what I consider is the "core" reason for testing. First of all, it involves an "individual" and a test is simply a point in time reference of a student's ability on a set of predetermined standards/objectives. I think there are two primary views that most people consider when testing and I would hope that we consider both of these views and others when evaluating results:

One view …is to determine whether or not the students have mastered the objectives.
Another View …is to help the student by diagnosing academic weaknesses.

I would also like to add that you should look at trends in test results across all students that will assist an educator in identifying his/her own instructional weaknesses. For example, does your curriculum match up with the specified standards and the high level of thinking in those standards? You can also analyze trends in your results to identify program weaknesses and this could be at the local, district, or state level.

Again, I think the primary goal is on the individual. In other words, how do we help an individual student become as prepared for their future as they can be? I often hear the argument that we should build success into our courses so that students can be successful and that we shouldn't build anything into tests that show what they do not know. Then why test at all? Everyone should have the feeling of success, but a student should know that a test will not only point out what they don't know, but what they DO KNOW. Assessment, in an educational setting, is a form of feedback and it should discriminate, not against individuals, but across variables.

A test should be used as positive feedback. The negative portion of any test, what the student did not know, is simply a means for remediation (for any area of relative weakness). Remediation should involve not only the student, but the instructor and the program. After all, even your best students should have relative weaknesses that need to be addressed. For example, if a student scored 94/100 on an exam, but every question missed was in a specific area, then we shouldn't just hand the results back and say, "Great job!" We should say, "Great Job!' and use positive reinforcment on all the things they do know, but their area of relative weakness should also be addressed.

To briefly summarize, a student will find success on any educational test when their ability and effort are effectively combined with instruction and resources. This is really a fluid equation as one portion of this concept may be weighted more heavily than another and this may effectively offset a weakness in any portion of the equation. The key is to analyze the results from a number of different perspectives and to always ask, "WHY?"

My main point is that many factors contibute to a test score and we should always do our best to analyze the results for each individual student. These factors are both internal and external and please remember that you are assessing "individuals." There are many other things that can affect results that we really haven't touched on such as home environment, socio-economic status, cognitive ability, testing environment, specific learning disabilities, etc.

Our goal is to try and understand "ALL" of the factors that comprise an individual score.
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