Using computer-based testing with young children
Susan Kubic Barnes, James Madison University, United States
James Madison University . Awarded
In this era of increased accountability in education, there is a need for tools to use in assessing the abilities and instructional levels of young children. Computers have been used successfully to assess older children and adults. However, there is a dearth of empirical research to provide evidence that computer-based testing (CBT) is appropriate for use with typically developing children under the age of six.
The purpose of this study was to explore the feasibility of using CBT with children in preschool and kindergarten. Children were administered paper-and-pencil (PPT) and CBT versions of the rhyme awareness subscale of the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (Preschool). After completing each assessment, each child shared individual reactions by selecting a card illustrating an emotion (e.g., joyful, happy, bored, sad, angry) and participating in a brief interview. Parents and teachers completed short questionnaires describing each child's previous computer experience, fine motor skills, and ability to recognize and generate rhymes.
An embedded mixed methods design was used to explore (a) to what extent children could complete the CBT independently, (b) how children reacted to the tests, and (c) how the results from the CBT and the PPT compared. Interview transcripts and field notes were used to more fully explain the test results. Findings indicated that preschool and kindergarten children needed help with the CBT. Difficulties were related to using the mouse and following directions. About 12% of the kindergarteners needed adult support to finish the CBT, compared to nearly half of the preschoolers. Children of all ages reported enjoying using the computer and doing the rhyming tasks, however, many preschoolers appeared anxious to leave the testing area or tried to discuss topics unrelated to the assessment. The results provide preliminary evidence that test mode administration does matter. This CBT was more difficult than the PPT for all groups of children. These results have implications for test development and use. CBTs for preschoolers must be designed to meet their physical and cognitive developmental needs. Also, preschool children need adequate practice using computer hardware and software before they can reliably demonstrate their skills and abilities through CBT.
Barnes, S.K. Using computer-based testing with young children. Ph.D. thesis, James Madison University.
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