What Your Test Manual Will (and Should) Tell You—Part 1
We hear about new (and older) tests in many ways: comments from colleagues, email listservs, flyers and postcards, catalogs, presentations at conventions, and the like. How many times have you purchased a new test after seeing it in one of these communication vehicles? When you received the test, how many times have you hurriedly opened the package, grabbed the easel and record form, and run off to test the student you believed it to be appropriate for—without reading the manual? If you say, “not once,” consider yourself one of a very small number of people who deserve kudos beyond measure, or . . . maybe you should rethink your answer. For most of us, the second group is where we sheepishly belong.
Say it with me: “I confess! I’ve given a test without reading the manual first!” There…now that’s out of our system. This month’s Café will begin a series on delving into the dark places of test manuals, hopefully to shed a little light or make the dim light a bit brighter.
You need a lot of things to help you work well in the school setting: Want a brief overview of the entire test in a short, concise description for a report or IEP meeting? Interested in the variety of ways a test may be used in clinical practice? Want to know how long testing may take or who is allowed to give the test? Need a bullet-point list of the test’s key features for the justification of the test purchase to your special education director or administrator? These and many other basic test questions are answered in well-written and complete test manuals.
In the case of Pearson’s test manuals, answers to these questions translate into “everything that is in Chapter 1.” Here are a few examples of the nuggets of gold just waiting for you to mine:
- The Expressive Vocabulary Test (EVT) manual states that this test was co-normed with PPVT-III. (pg. 1) The strength of the EVT test is not only that the test’s internal data are rigorous, but also that the psychometric link to the gold standard in vocabulary testing, the PPVT, makes it even easier to compare receptive and expressive vocabulary scores of your students or do research.
- The Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language (CASL) manual advises that you can use the open-ended responses from students during testing for dynamic and qualitative language sample analysis (pg. 5). The CASL is not just a norm-referenced test battery (not that it wouldn’t be great even if it were)!
- The Oral and Written Language Scales (OWLS) manuals give approximate testing times for different age groups across the testing age span (pp. 6 and 7, respectively). Each manual also includes approximate scoring times for each age group. Want some clear data for caseload vs. workload support in your school? Check out these published times and start adding it up!
- The Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation-2 (GFTA-2) and Khan-Lewis Phonological Analysis-2 (KLPA-2)actually have different examiner requirements: two levels of qualifications for the GFTA-2 and an additional qualification for the KLPA-2 (pp. 5 and 4, respectively).
These are just a few of the many nuggets you can find in Chapter 1 of most Pearson test manuals. While understandably the text may not be as riveting as a John Grisham or Harry Potter novel, it may help you in ways that you would never consider until you read each page. Begin gently . . . with Chapter 1, which is typically eight or less full pages. Think about the “big picture” content for a while. Fit it in with what you already know and believe about testing. When you’ve had a break to consider the information, then go on to the next chapter. Scanning a manual is a good initial tool, but many of us don’t take the time to go deeper.
Go deeper. Your students depend on your depth.
From the view of a test publisher, writing and printing a manual is critical to any test development process. Authors and editors work closely together to be as complete and clear as possible without adding unnecessary information. Keep in mind that the manual must be written to a large audience who has a very wide knowledge base about testing in general and the individual test specifically. Finding a balance between not enough and too much information can be difficult, but with a solid process and competent professionals, a winning combination can be born.
Happy reading—you can do it!
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