Friday, December 18thDavid Foster

The Shiny Dinosaur: The History and Failure (So Far) of Innovation in Testing

Guest Speaker: David Foster
MIT campus, E25-401


This session will present a brief history of the more prominent innovations in testing beginning in 1914, one hundred and one years ago, and how those innovations, except for the first one, have by-and-large failed to fundamentally change testing. Today, the majority of testing is done the same way as in 1914, with a solid percentage of tests still administered on paper and answered using pencils. Also, today, an almost complete majority of tests administered by computer are simple “page turners” with keyboards substituting for pencils. Testing is misunderstood and hated more than ever, and often, justifiably. We have failed to solve major concerns over fairness, accuracy, validity and security. On the practical side, the tests are obtrusive, costly to create and administer, and are available in inconvenient locations.

The situation is not all doom-and-gloom. Because the needs are many and deep, the potential value of applied innovation has never been higher. Many innovations have been introduced that have had localized positive effects and have significant potential to solve the problems listed above, to fill the real needs of education, parents, the workplace, government, and society in general. A review of a few of these innovations will illustrate that potential, and at the same time illustrate why their use falls short of where it could and should be. The barriers to the adoption of these innovations in testing, and the reasons they exist, will be presented and discussed with the attendees.