In the more than 3500 colleges and universities in the United States, there
are courses common to just about all. Courses such as Freshman English,
History of Western Civilization, Music Appreciation, Freshman Chemistry or
Biology, many courses with the same content are taught at virtually all these
Despite the fact that
thousands of courses in thousands of schools all teach the same content, each
one is planned independently. Sometimes a department will provide an
instructor with a list of topics to cover, but more often, the instructor is
provided with a pre-selected textbook and told "Cover this."
Another issue is that
many of these basic courses are taught by relatively new instructors, since
those teachers with seniority usually elect to teach the more advanced
("interesting") courses. So we wind up with our most fundamental
courses, the ones taught to the most students, being taught by our most
sponsoring a "Consortium of Course Objectives" for
each subject area common to a number of institutions. The goal of the
consortium would be to agree on a set of common learning objectives for the
core courses in that subject area. The learning objectives for Freshman
English taught in Miami should not be substantively different than Freshman
English taught in Oregon or Hawaii.
term vision is that eventually there will be established and accepted learning objectives
for every study area.
When this comes to
pass, then institutions accepting students transferring from another
institution will know exactly what competencies are indicated by
each course on the student's transcript.
Equally as important,
potential employers will have a crystal clear picture of what competencies
each graduate has attained, and these competencies will be more evenly matched
from institution to institution.
Of course, each
institution would probably want to retain some specialized, non-common
courses, to retain institutional individuality. There's nothing wrong with
QTII would create and
maintain a website accessible to consortium-participating institutions, where
the common learning objectives for all courses could be stored and accessed.
TEST ITEM BANKS:
Once common objectives are settled for a particular course, QTII can begin
to serve as the central repository for effective test questions based on these
It takes significant
training and a great deal of time to write effective and valid test questions;
why should well written questions be discarded after a test?
One answer to that
question is to prevent cheating. But consider this -- once QTII compiles a
substantial test item bank, it doesn't matter if the students know the
questions in advance! Why? Because the questions are based on the objectives,
and if the students study the questions, they will be studying the objectives,
and thereby learning what they're supposed to learn anyway. If there is a
large enough number of questions, then studying all the questions will be more
work (and more learning) than simply studying the proper material.
You are a third year teacher, and you have just been notified that next month,
due to sudden illness of the regular teacher, you will teach (for the first
time) three sections of a freshman ABC-XYZ class, each section with 70
students. You are fairly comfortable with the subject, but haven't worked with
it for three years. You log on to the QTII Objectives Bank website and
download the standard ABC-XYZ objectives hierarchy and three sample lesson
plan layouts. The objectives tell both you and your students exactly what
topics and subtopics they are to learn, and to what level. You select a sample
lesson plan, one that closely matches the number of class sessions you have.
The lesson plan outlines exactly which topics to cover in each class session,
and offers a number of teaching examples that have worked well in the past.
With the lesson plan, the objectives, and the examples, teaching the actual
lessons -- including staying on topic and making it interesting for the
students -- is a piece of cake. You have decided to give four exams during the
term. The afternoon before the first exam, you log onto the QTII Test
Item Bank. The system already has a list of the objectives for your course.
You specify which objectives have been covered to date, and the QTII Test Item
Engine generates one test item for each behavioral/criterion objective
covered. This comes to a total of 75 test items. You preview the test items on
screen, including items, rationales, and statistics for each test item, and
select four you don't like. The engine generates four new items (from
hundreds available) for these objectives. You say the new items are
acceptable, so the Test Item Engine generates two test documents in Microsoft
WordŽ format: the test itself, suitable for printing on the department's high
speed laser printer, and the answer key, complete with a rationale explaining
why the right answer is correct and the distractors are wrong. The entire
process of creating the test takes less than half an hour. The test is assured
to be valid and reliable. The students fill out their answers to the test on
ScantronŽ forms; at the end of the day you feed all forms into a ScantronŽ
machine, which feeds the responses back to the QTII Testing Engine and scores
the tests. The QTII Testing Engine uses the student responses to update its
statistics for those test items, making them even more usable in the future.
Finally, the QTII Testing Engine generates another electronic document listing
each student by name or ID number (your choice) and the score received on the
test. The entire scanning, scoring, and printing operation requires less
than half an hour for more than 200 tests.