World Class Tests

World Class Arena is an international initiative designed to identify and assess gifted and talented students around the world. It was devised by the British government Department for Education and Skills (DfES), and World Class Arena items have been trialled by teachers and students in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US. The materials were developed by the Assessment and Evaluation Unit (AEU) at the University of Leeds and the Mathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS) at the Universities of Nottingham and Durham. We publish here some of the research completed by these development teams.

Using Computers to Assess New Educational Goals
Professor Jim Ridgway and Dr Sean McCusker

This paper describes the ways in which World Class Tests have sought to define new educational goals for mathematics and problems solving, as well as designing effective assessments of those skills. Computer-based tests can present new sorts of tasks, where dynamic displays show changes in several variables over time. Interaction makes computers well suited to the assessment of process skills-discovering rules, finding relationships, developing effective strategies-by the use of simulations, microworlds and interactive games. Students can work with complex realistic data sets, using professional methods. The paper illustrates these claims, and describes students' strengths and weaknesses observed on live tests.
(PDF 3,638k)

All or Nothing - Problem Solving by High Achievers in Mathematics
Marja van den Heuvel-Panhuizen and Conny Bodin-Baarends

This article describes the first results gained from a problem solving test that was administered to fourth-grade students in the Netherlands. The students involved are all high achievers in mathematics. The analysis of the student responses gives cause for concern. The often-heard belief that teachers do not need to worry about the better students is clearly in need of revision. It turned out that when high achievers in mathematics are challenged to take on non-typical problems, their abilities are more limited than expected. The study revealed that the students wrote down hardly anything on their scrap paper to solve certain problems.Also it was found that they were not very persistent in looking for a solution. In this paper we illustrate these first findings by discussing the results of one of the test problems.
(PDF 32k)

Losing your inhibitions: possible effects on assessment of dynamic, interactive computer items.
Dr Peter Pool

This paper examines some of the issues that arise in writing mathematics assessment questions for presentation on a computer screen. It questions the assumption that the computer screen functions simply as a replica of a sheet of paper. It seeks to argue that the medium of presentation and expression is in fact an inherent part of the discourse of mathematics and that any move of assessment from one medium to another changes that discourse. There will be new possibilities for cognitive activity and the loss of others. In this way the assessment medium redefines the subject.
(PDF 242k)

Reasoning with Data
James Nicholson, Jim Ridgway and Sean McCusker

Reasoning with data is already pervasive in society, and its importance as a life skill is increasing. We argue that the current statistics curriculum in the United Kingdom at the secondary level does not prepare our young people adequately, and suggest ways in which it could be improved.
(PDF 334k)


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