When the Scales Are Unjust: Invalid Methods of Evaluation -- By: Justin Arbuckle

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 23:3 (Summer 2006)
Article: When the Scales Are Unjust: Invalid Methods of Evaluation
Author: Justin Arbuckle

When the Scales Are Unjust:
Invalid Methods of Evaluation

Justin Arbuckle

Wesley Price

Mel Winstead

Scott Wilson

Ph.D. Students in Biblical and Theological Studies
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587


People take tests everyday. Yet the question may be asked: “Are the tests fair to the students?” Answering that question is the purpose of this paper. It must be said in brief that the tests of any given instructor are only as just as the procedures used in the writing, analyzing, and recording of those tests. Furthermore, it is here argued that standard testing is only just if it is merely one component of the instructor’s overall effort to assess the student’s classroom performance; classroom analysis should be based on a number of additional components as well. The importance of this “fairness” issue in testing should be apparent at least to Christian educators whose goal it is to measure in accordance with “accurate weights” which are a delight to their Lord (Prov. 11:1).

Fair Testing Practices

The Teacher as Test Writer1

Among the host of unjust practices often carried out by professors at the expense of their students, perhaps the most obviously suspect is the actual writing of the examinations themselves. Before moving to a discussion of specific guidelines for various genres of test questions, we will review several general principles for test writing. Educational author Donna Walker Tileston offers some valuable advice to the teacher beginning the process of selecting material to test. She writes, “Let’s make what’s important more measurable instead of what’s measurable, more important.”2 It does seem that teachers often err in this regard; even if the eventual test delivered to the students is valid and objective, the students are still cheated educationally if they are only asked to regurgitate “measurable” rather than “important” information. Tileston also comments on another related problem, when she writes: “Students who do well on a test and then forget the information

probably never knew it to begin with. They may have held the information in working memory long enough,. .. but because they did not process it, their brains promptly discarded the information.”3 While the solution to this pattern goes beyond testing, teachers would help alleviate the problem by writing ...

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