The National Examination Board (NEB), the ADB-EU funded School Sector Development Program Technical Assistance Facility (SSDP TA Facility) and ACER India (funded by ADB) jointly conducted a training for “Item Writing” for development of standardised test for grade eight.
The fourteen-day training for English, mathematics and science teachers and other practitioners covered fundamentals and framework for writing items. There were 112 trainees (39 science, 36 English and 37 mathematic) with representation from all seven provinces. The training was conducted with a combination of the physical and virtual platforms; a break away from the traditional mode of delivery in keeping with the government’s COVID 19 pandemic social engagement guidelines.
With functions of examination for grade eight devolved to municipalities (753), the government’s national SSDP program emphasises on making formative and summative assessments more skills and learner-focused as opposed to focusing on content alone. The objective of the training was to help teachers to develop test items based on curriculum and specification grid. The training initiative was part of SSDP TA Facility’s support to the government to help with examination standardisation for grade eight and to help teachers prepare test questions with higher cognitive levels and thinking skills.
The first part of the training focused on familiarisation with the framework for Grade 8 standardised test, fundamentals of item writing, practice sessions for sample items and feedback sharing. The remaining part of the training was assigned for the item writing framework.
There were critical inputs from seven trainers representing ACER India and three national consultants Mr. Shyam Acharya, Mr. Kamal Prasad Devkota and SSDP TA Facility’s Dr. Ganesh B Singh during the training. Representing the seven trainers Mr. Neelam Yadav said his assessment at the end of the training was that all trainee participants had gained sound knowledge about higher-order thinking skills as a learning group. Stating that there will be technical challenges ahead, he mentioned that he was confident the trainees’ understanding of the rubric assessment framework and quality aspects in standardisation of assessment should help teachers in item writing the implementation.
Speaking at the concluding session of the training representing the mathematics group, Mr. Resham Koirala from Gandaki province said, ‘My foremost take away from the training was the understanding of rubrics as an assessment tool. The rubric has opened my mind on marking criteria to evaluate students based on written assignments, presentation and engagement in class”.
Ms. Achala Thapa from Bagmati province representing the science group said, “My understanding of item writing now goes beyond setting questions, as the training involved both theory and practical exercises. Now I understand that assessment of students must be based on a competency framework with appropriate quality assurance mechanisms”.
Speaking at the concluding session of the training Ms. Smita Gyawali, Senior Program Officer, Asian Development Bank, credited the National Examination Board, Education Review Office and Curriculum Development Center for coordinating the item writing training. She said the ADB would continue to support the partnership between NEB, ACER India and the SSDP TA Facility to translate learning into action to bring standardisation of grade eight examination.
SSDP TA Facility Team Leader Dr. Fawad Shams said his team overcame challenges posed by the COVID19 pandemic to hold the training. He added that good test items and assessment practices are important for the teaching and learning process. He also opined that the training would be instrumental in developing grade eight standardised examination. He assured that SSDP TA Facility would continue to provide the required follow up and support needed to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders.
Mr. Durga Aryal, NEB Member Secretary said the training was conducted at an appropriate time when the country was witnessing discrepancies in standards for examinations. He added that there must be a shift from the traditional approach to examination with a move from the assessment of learning to assessment for learning. He said as part of the government’s institutional capacity support to local governments, the NEB will work with them to promote critical thinking to bring cohesion between curriculum, textbooks and assessment. Regarding putting learning into implementation, Mr. Aryal said testing for item writing will have to be validated before rolling out at scale.