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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Online Assessment and the Eleven Plus

You are cordially invited to a discussion program. We want your views, just before the eleven plus examinations, with a provocative and timely topic.

Is the Eleven Plus a cost or an investment?

We know that the internet and technology is now a large part of our lives. Our eleven plus children can use the internet and digital sources to look at topics, exercises and assessments on-line and in their own homes. Out of interest we have families accessing our tests and exercises in libraries when their network or computer goes down!

We have been using on-line assessments for the past year. There was remarkably little discussion from parents who were used to pen and paper testing from older siblings or discussions with other past parents. Most parents have simply embraced the change – they now feel much closer to the assessment and the results. One major question that still has to be resolved is will pen and paper testing and on-line testing ever be totally equivalent?

A child taught on and through the computer then has to use a pencil to work on multiple choice questions in the examination. Naturally working through a few pen and paper practice tests should help to build confidence and familiarity.

Of course there must be pros and cons of using on-line testing – but there are already schools who use computer technology to select their children. The speed of marking, the ability to analyse and sort data must make life easier for the school. Some children may also find it easier!

The eleven plus is a learning journey. I still have a book called The Essentials of Verbal Reasoning’ by O.B. Gregory 1963 – and some of the types of questions raised in this book are still used to day. Some questions lend themselves to multiple choice answers. What a coup if your child could pass the examination based on 1963 questions and 2011 technology!

One way we could make the eleven plus more interesting for some children is to change the present system of questions to questions where problems have to be solved. We are working with an eleven plus boy at the moment who comes to life when a KS3 5-8 text book is used to present the questions. He only wants to work at Levels 7 and 8! Just in the same way it is sometimes difficult to find learning materials for a ten year old child with learning difficulties, it is also challenging to provide materials for a ten year old who is thinking and acting as a fifteen year old! Questions set in a problem form and delivered digitally may, in time, help to stimulate some children who do not really need the chore of working through endless papers.

There are possibly very few eleven plus children who would find it difficult to work on an on-line exercise whilst simultaneously eating a wholesome snack, drinking, watching a little T.V. and arguing with a sibling. It may even be possible that the only time our candidate is really quiet is when he or she is working through a computer based simulation. Every time we climb into a plane we must worry about the Air Traffic Controller who took six attempts to pass the examination! Is that worse than meeting a driver who had failed the driving test six times? We only, however, are offered one chance with the eleven plus.

Parents, their parents, their parents before them and so on back in recordable history have all used pen and paper to record examination results. It is the safe and well tried option. Are our eleven plus children going into a world where they will meet only safe and well tried options? Our eleven plus children are probably amongst the brightest in the country. In years to come it is likely that remarkably few of them will opt for the safest route – so why not challenge them through the eleven plus?

We hope that we are investing in the future of these bright children. There will, however, naturally be a cost that has to be carried.

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