Testing at a Higher Level

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Science  22 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6126, pp. 1361
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6126.1361-c

The development of higher-order cognitive skills (HOCSs) is central to recent education reform efforts, yet data indicate that few courses are able to successfully assess these skills. Lemons and Lemons performed qualitative analysis on interviews they conducted with biologists involved in writing and reviewing test questions in order to document their ideas relating to HOCSs. Not surprisingly, most study participants used Bloom's taxonomy to logically analyze questions. However, 62% of categorical data relating to question design fell outside of Bloom's category and into categories labeled question difficulty, time required, student experience, and correct answers. Regrettably, some participants demonstrated an assumption that questions have one correct answer and not multiple solutions, possibly highlighting their discomfort with HOCSs. Taken together, results suggest that, when asked to assess HOCSs, participants did not use Bloom's taxonomy in a vacuum. Instead, they integrated their own assumptions and misconceptions regarding HOCSs into the questions they wrote, suggesting that professional HOCSs assessment training may be useful.

CBE Life Sci. Educ. 12, 47 (2013).

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