Nature and practice of test wiseness the case of Kenyan schools
The skills that tests attempt to measure are not directly observable, but must be elicited by an observable tool (test). The decision on an individual's ability depends on the information gathered or the competence of this tool. However, independent factors, which are not supposed to be involved in the ability measured, may obstruct or contribute to the information required by this tool. One ofthese factors is test-wiseness. Test wiseness is defined as a subject's capacity to utilize the characteristics and formats of the test and/or the test-taking situation to receive a high score. It is logically independent of the examinee's knowledge of the subject matter for which the items supposedly measure.' Basically then, test wiseness suggests a cognitive ability (or abilities) that one may employ on a variety of tests, regardless of the nature of the tests' subjective content. Millman et al. developed test wiseness taxonomy which has since been adopted as a conceptual framework for the construct of test wiseness. It's development consisted of a synthesis of the literatures of test construction principles, and problem solving styles of examinees. Test wiseness encompasses both the method of measurement (tests testing situation), and characteristics of examinees (states-traits) The first half of the outline contains principles of test wiseness which are independent of the test-constructor or test purpose. The elements presehted here are applicable in most testing situations, regardless of previous exposure (or a lack of it) to either the test-maker, or other tests with a similar purpose. The first subdivison suggests time-using strategies to implement on those tests which restrict the time allotted the test-taker. The points listed here are guidelines to optimal management of time, intended to prevent a loss of points for a reason other than lack of knowledge of test content. Similarly, the second subdivision presents rules of thumb to avoid minor mistakes, so that the examinee is not penalized for his or her carelessness. The third and fourth subdivisions deal with guessing and deductive reasoning strategies which allow the test-taker to gain points beyond those attained on the basis of knowledge of the subject matter. Successful deductive reasoning is dependent on some knowledge of the tested material. However, the correct answer is not known without the presence of other choices, or questions, to serve as cues in the reasoning process. The study aimed at investigating test wiseness with a view to determining the nature of the construct and if it's practiced. The population of the study included all secondary school students and teachers in Machakos district schools. Stratified random sampling was used. The researcher adopted an exploratory approach and used a descriptive survey design to investigate the nature and practice of test wiseness. Descriptive. survey design was intended to produce statistical information about aspects of test wiseness that may interest policy makers and educators. A total of 30 teachers and 180 students were selected to participate in the research. The instrument for this study was a self reported confidential survey that measured application of test wiseness skills and demographics. Analysis was done using SPSS. Descriptive statistics included computing means, frequencies and standard deviation. Tables and graphs were used to present the results. It was found that majority of the students indicated that they had never heard of test wiseness. However they applied the construct. An overwhelming 90% of the teachers had never heard of test wiseness but surprisingly a majority practiced test wiseness skills. The teachers were very keen in guiding their students on error avoidance skills more than any other skill. The findings of this study indicate that the Kenyan secondary students practiced test wiseness skills. Therefore, a repeat study could also be conducted with tertiary level students. Further research is recommended to be done on test wiseness elements which are dependent upon the test constructor or the test purpose. These involve consideration of the intent of the question and the recognition of cue-using strategies which may have been inadvertently adopted by the test constructor e.g KNEC. Further research should also be done to investigate teachers' attitudes toward the teaching of test-wiseness skills or the evaluation of test-taking strategy competence in teachers. Given that tests are increasingly being administered using ICT, corresponding test- wiseness skills will inevitably develop. It is therefore suggested that more research be conducted to expand the taxonomy oftest-wiseness.