Friday, August 10, 2012


     Essentially, a table of specification is a table chart that breaks down the topics that will be on a test and the amount of test questions or percentage of weight each section will have on the final test grade. This kind of table chart is usually split into two charts, and each sub topic is numbered under the main topics that are being covered for the test. This type of table is mainly used by teachers to help break down their testing outline on a specific subject. Some teachers use this particular table as their teaching guideline by breaking the table into subjects, the teachers main points, how much time should be spent on the point, and what assignment or project can be done to help the student learn the subject.For many teachers, a table of specification is both part of the process of test building and a product of the test building process. This table provides teachers and their students with a visual approximation of the content that will tested and the amount of weight it is given on a test
A table that shows what will be tested (and taught)
Theoretically, a completely detailed table of specifications would have every learning objective listed for every lesson for the whole year
    • things haven't gone quite that far here in Alberta
    • not sure there is really a point to having a document that lists every single fact students are to know
    • not only is this too inflexible -- because it wouldn't allow for any room for teacher to respond to student needs,

      it is also reductionism
      • try to reduce learning to individual skills, misses that education is more than the sum of its parts
      • part of difference between training and education I talk about in Social Context
currently this totally detailed approach is dominant one in England
    • some movement toward that end of the continuum here: "competency based" education is an attempt to move towards defining education in terms of a finite number of specific competencies
    • so we do not need that level of detail --> main topics for year, main concepts for a unit plan good enough
Sample Table of Specifications

Bloom's Taxonomy
Knowledge & Comprehension
Analysis, Synthesis &Evaluation
Topic A
Topic B
  • usually a two sided chart used in construction of tests
  • content down one side, cognitive levels across the top
  • common format in Alberta, but no rule: could have content across the top, Bloom ‘down the side 
    • usually group Bloom' categories: in this example, knowledge, understanding, and higher mental activity
    • I prefer grouping knowledge/understanding (because straight recall usually too simple to count as real learning) and than application, then analysis, synthesis and evaluation as higher level
    • for more on Bloom' Taxonomy, please see Glossary

  • Content usually much more detailed than this, but will use two categories here to keep illustration simple
  • totals tell you at a glance what percentages of course emphasis given to each topic and what percentage lower and higher level mental processes

  • Example of running content across the top, Bloom' down the side 
  • notice that some curriculum' translate Bloom into subject specific taxonomy, but principle is the same
Table of Specifications Relates the Outcomes to the Content and Indicates the Relative weight of each area
  • weight is usually based on how much time devoted to teaching concept
    • but also how important it is that students remember, transfer to other contexts, courses --> some important ideas may be easy to teach but still important to include
    • also determined by type of material --> don't put a lot of weight on higher mental activity category for unit on memorizing state capitals --> don't put a lot into recall for drama class on risk taking and creative dance
    • weight -- start simple --> four topics, divide into 4, then maybe add bit more to topic you are particularly interested in, or figure students will be interested in, etc.
  • weight usually given in %, but you can use marks (e.g., 50) if you like 
  • usually out of 100%, but might make two separate blueprints, one for 70 multiple choice, and second 30% for written response 
  • blueprint for teaching --> don't just start teaching page one on day one, or suddenly discover that its Easter and you're still on first unit --> need to figure out how much time you're going to allocate per unit, per concept within units
  • blueprint for the test
  • So that we get:
  • representative sample of course content -->not all random sample
    • this is important so that you don't just choose questions from last two weeks before exam
representative sample of skills, cognitive levels across content
    • not just rote memorization; or just high level stuff
    • often sabotage great course by teaching high level skills (sculpting, acting, playing solo) then giving rote memorization test (date that Mozart composed 43rd symphony) that does not reflect actual time spent

      kids learn quickly what actually &#34counts"is stuff on test, so if you have rote memorization test, don'try to get class discussion going!

  • analyze results by level and content area
    • if students getting all lower level questions but missing higher level, then you're not doing your job; if all have got answers to one unit but not another, may have to reteach that unit, etc.
Do classroom teachers actually do this?
  • No, but most of them have not had the benefit of your training.
  • Part of my job when I worked for Student Evaluation branch was to do inservice workshops at PD days and teacher conventions and on item writing committees; teachers were always surprised and pleased by this obvious concept.
  • So more teachers are doing this each year.
  • Now, most principals will want to see your year plans, and expect some evaluation planning as part of it.
  • It is becoming a standard part of unit planning

No comments:

Post a Comment