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Campus-Wide Student Assessment during a Pandemic


 
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SUMMARY: Sarah Alahmadi, a first-year doctoral student in the Assessment and Measurement program conducted research that explored the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on large-scale assessment.


By Laureta Ramaj, Graduate Student, M.A. in Communication & Advocacy

James Madison University (JMU) has a 30-year tradition of assessing student learning to measure the effectiveness of the undergraduate programs. As school begins, each fall and spring during “Assessment Day” all freshmen, sophomores, and selected seniors participate in an extensive on-campus testing program.

However, during 2020-21 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything needed to change. Unproctored online tests replaced the traditional paper and pencil procedures and assessments were spread over three weeks instead of testing all students on a scheduled day. New approaches were needed to measure student learning that is relevant to JMU's General Education program on subjects including history, global issues, and scientific reasoning. How effective were the new procedures and how comparable might they be to the previous methods?

Sarah Alahmadi, a first-year doctoral student in the Assessment and Measurement program conducted research that explored the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on large-scale assessment. She examined the performance differences between the previous incoming student cohorts who completed in-person assessments and the 2020 cohort who were tested remotely. Her findings suggest that performance differences and effort varied across various types of tests.

Students who tested remotely in 2020 followed a pre-existing decreasing trend on the history and global issues assessments but they scored significantly lower on the scientific reasoning assessment compared to their counterparts from previous years. The results suggest that students’ performance in remote testing may be negatively impacted when the test is longer, more arduous, or requires more cognitive resources such as the scientific reasoning test.

The Graduate Showcase was an opportunity for Sarah to share how large-scale assessments are conducted and whether they are affected by remote testing when there is little opportunity to enhance students’ motivation and effort. “I decided to participate because it’s a great way to showcase this timely project that I’ve been working on all year.” This was Sarah's first time participating in a virtual professional conference. She said that “a lot of work goes into presenting virtually. Not only do you have to decide how to condense all of your work into less than 15 minutes, but you also have to think of creative ways to make your presentation interesting and visually appealing since you cannot rely on gestures and eye contact in a virtual format.”

Sarah wants to expand this research. She is now working on a second project that focuses on exploring whether COVID-19 impacted student learning gains by comparing the results of sophomores tested in Spring 2021 and previous cohorts of sophomores tested pre-COVID-19.

To watch Sarah’s oral presentation and learn more about other JMU graduate student projects, visit the Graduate Showcase website.

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Published: Monday, May 3, 2021

Last Updated: Tuesday, May 4, 2021

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