Published on November 18th, 2021 | by Sunit Nandi0
How educators can leverage school benchmarking tests to improve learning outcomes
All teachers, whether they are focused on teaching the foundations in first grade or advanced mathematics in the final year of school, have to have the right information at their disposal to make effective decisions about their students’ learning needs. In order to make a positive impact on learning outcomes teachers need a mechanism by which to test their students and compare the outcomes to students from other schools, states and even countries in order to understand where they need to focus their attention and where they can make the biggest difference. One way to do this is to take part in a global benchmarking assessment.
What are school benchmarking tests?
School benchmarking tests or assessments are a technique that uses standardised tests, administered periodically, to evaluate students’ knowledge and skill relative to an explicit set of longer term learning goals. This assessment can then help benchmark individual students or schools against others in their cohort to better understand where they may be over or underperforming. This data can then be used to inform policy, instructional planning and decision-making at the classroom, school, state or even country level.
How can educators leverage school benchmarking tests to improve learning outcomes?
There are a number of ways that properly designed benchmarking tests can be used to improve learning outcomes. Some of the benefits to school leaders include:
- Benchmarking tests provide teachers and school leaders with evidence-based analysis for better decision-making. A true global benchmarking assessment, like the OECD PISA for Schools test provides data at the student, school and country level. For classroom teachers this lets them identify which students might be struggling with key topics like reading, maths or critical thinking and allows them to plan targeted intervention for these students. At the schools level it also allows leaders to compare the relative success of their students compared to other schools, uncovering possible weakness in topics where the students are performing well by their school’s standards but poorly compared to other schools in the region, something that is impossible if students are only subjected to tests specific to only the school or classroom.
- Opens up the possibility of peer-learning and support beyond the classroom, allowing teachers to compare techniques and teaching methods between schools, states and countries. Teachers have always collaborated on trying to find better ways to reach their students. How a benchmarking test helps, however, is that it provides educators with data on what works and what doesn’t, allowing school leaders to identify teaching methods from other schools or other classrooms that have proven to make a positive difference to learning outcomes.
- Better allocation of resources and effort to boost learning outcomes. Benchmark assessment can help optimize student learning by helping to provide accurate placement in classes according to needed instructional levels through evaluation of success at the student or group level. This provides school leaders with the ability to focus their resources where they would make the most impact on student learning, adjust their methods according to the level of their student’s comprehension and target successful intervention where it is needed most.