The Digital Divide and Computer-Based Writing Assessments

Print or digital? The question doesn’t apply solely to classroom learning materials but also to assessments. In 2012 the NAEP conducted a computer-based writing pilot for fourth graders. The main goal was to determine whether or not fourth-graders could fully demonstrate their writing ability on a computer. The Institute of Education Sciences compared the results of this pilot to the 2010 NAEP written assessment completed with pencil and paper. What the researchers found is that prior exposure to wordprocessing,  keyboarding  and home  Internet access have a correlation to performance on the computer-based exam.

According to the report, “The NAEP item developers are charged with producing assessment tasks that match the NAEP target domain specifications. These measures do not distinguish whether poorer writing performance is due to deficiencies in facilitative skills (i.e., keyboarding and word processing in this study), target skills (i.e., language facility, development of ideas, and organization of ideas), or both.”

Key findings

  • The 12 percent of fourth-graders who never or hardly ever received instruction in keyboarding and word processing had a lower average score on the assessment than those who did.
  • The 31 percent of fourth-graders who never or hardly ever received computer-based writing assignments had a lower average score on the assessment compared to those who received such assignment.
  • The 23 percent of fourth-graders who had no access to the Internet at home had a lower average score than those who had .
  • The 32 percent of fourth-graders who had never or hardly ever searched the Internet for information to include in their writing had a lower average score than those who did so once or twice a month or a few times a year.
  • The percentage of fourth-graders who never or hardly ever received computer-based writing assignments was higher among ELL, National Student Lunch Program (NSLP)-eligible, and Hispanic students.
  • The percentage of fourth-graders who never or hardly ever took a computer-based writing test with an extended constructed-response component was disproportionately higher for Hispanic students and ELL students, as compared to their counterparts, i.e., non-Hispanic students (including white, black and Asian students), and non-ELL students, respectively.

Recommendations include policymakers and educators making sure that students have the resources and skills to take computer-based tests. The report authors also suggest that similar research be conducted at the secondary level.

Read “Performance of fourth-grade students in the 2012 NAEP computer-based writing pilot assessment,” by Sheida White, NCES, Young Yee Kim, AIR, Jing Chen, NCES, Fei Liu, MacroSys, Institute of Education Sciences (October 2015).

At the 2016 Content in Context conference the session "Brave New World of Assessment" will examine how the new requirements are changing what’s measured and how assessments can be created to evaluate learning-in-process rather than mastery upon completion.

 

Tags: 
Assessment and Accountability
Digital Issues
Education Policy