09 SES 05 C, National and Regional Large-scale Assessments: Methods and Findings
Parallel Paper Session
Compared to other countries, Swedish pupils undergo a very small number of examinations during their compulsory education (OECD, 2005). However, a new assessment program that has recently been introduced in Sweden requires that pupils undergo an increased number of mandatory national examinations. In Finland, there are no national examinations taken by all pupils at a given stage in their basic education. Instead, schools are assessed on the basis of the test results of a random representative sample, typically in a single subject. Notwithstanding, Finnish pupils generally have more classroom examinations over the course of the school year. In addition to undergoing different numbers of exams during their time in school, pupils in Finland and Sweden also differ in terms of their levels of academic achievement, as measured by various international comparative studies in education. For several years, the ranking of Swedish pupils in these comparative exercises has fallen; there is a stable downwards trend in Sweden’s PISA rank. By contrast, Finnish pupils have maintained consistently high rankings (Kupiainen et al., 2009).
Both Finland and Sweden could be said to have “low-stakes” national assessment systems, although this may be changing in the case of Sweden. While the Swedish accountability system is not really standards-based, it has certain elements that incline it in that direction (Eklöf et al., 2009). High-stakes tests are generally perceived as being stressful, resulting in anxiety (O’Neil & Abedi, 1992). If pupils experience high stress connected to taking a test, i.e. test anxiety, it may adversely affect their performance. Research has shown that as group, highly test-anxious individuals perform less well on examinations (Zeidner, 2007).
On the other hand, it is possible that increased testing may boost educational performance. Studies have shown that tests influence pupils’ behaviour and stances, providing motivation and encouragement. Together with increases in test-taking skills, familiarity, and changes in attitudes (Connor-Greene, 2000), this seems to reduce test anxiety (Roediger et al., 2006).
Test anxiety is a growing problem in diverse geographical and cultural settings. There are over 1 000 publications on test anxiety (Stöber & Pekrun, 2004), but little attention has been paid to its occurrence in Sweden or Finland. Even though test anxiety levels do not seem to differ greatly between nations, some cultural groups score higher than others on test anxiety scales (Bodas et al., 2008). Accordingly test anxiety may be sensitive to cultural and socialization factors, and so it may be imprudent to simply generalize previous research findings to other national populations (Zeidner, 1990).
The objective of present study was thus to determine whether pupils in two unlike school settings, Sweden and Finland, differ in their experiences of test anxiety. Moreover, we examined the test anxiety instrument of Wren and Benson (2004) and their construct of test anxiety; a statistical comparison of its groups and items was undertaken to assess its utility for studying Swedish and Finnish pupils. The result is further discussed and related to Europe-wide patterns and trends in national testing systems.
Bodas, J., Ollendick, T. H., & Sovani, A. V. (2008). Test anxiety in Indian children: a cross-cultural perspective. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 21(4), 387-404. Connor-Greene P A (2000) Assessing and promoting student learning: blurring the line between teaching and testing Teaching of Psychology, 27(2), 84-88. Eklöf H., Andersson, E., & Wikström, C. (2009). The concept of accountability in education: does the Swedish school system apply? Cadmo, 2, 1-12. Eurydice. (2009). National testing of Pupils in Europe: Objectives, Organisation and Use of Results. Brussels: Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency P9 Eurydice, Retrieved March, 16, 2010, from http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice/documents/thematic_reports/109EN.pdf Kupiainen, S., Hautamäki, J., & Karjalainen, T. (2009). The Finnish Education System and Pisa. Undervisningsministeriet, Ministry of Education, Helsinki University Print. O’Neil, H. F., Jr., & Abedi, J. (1992). Japanese children’s trait and state worry and emotionality in a high-stakes testing environment. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 5(3), 225-239. OECD. (2005). Education at a glance: OECD indicators. Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Roediger, H. L. III, McDaniel, M., & McDermott, K. (2006). Test enhanced learning. APS Observer, 19(3). Stöber, J., & Pekrun, R. (2004). Advances in test anxiety research. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 17(3), 205-211. Wren, D. G., & Benson, J. (2004). Measuring test anxiety in children: scale development and internal construct validation. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 17(3), 227-240. Zeidner, M. (1990). Does test anxiety bias scholastic aptitude test performance by gender and social group? Journal of Personality Assessment, 55(1&2), 145-160. Zeidner, M. (2007). Test anxiety in educational contexts: Concepts, findings, and future directions. In P. A. Schutz, & R. Pekrun (Eds.), Emotion and education (165-184). San Diego, CA: Elsevier INC.
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