Introduction

Fact: Many safety professionals dread designing tests. Some don't even like to use the word "test" and often substitute words such as assessment, evaluation, exam/examination or quiz. Why so much test anxiety? Because it takes a significant chunk of time to design tests. And because so few safety professionals have had any formal education in test design and delivery. In fact, about half of the professional educators report no formal training in developing, administering, scoring, and interpreting tests (Kansas Curriculum Center). Test creation is an art and a science. Have you ever wished that you had taken an Instructional Design course in college?

Many students dread taking tests and often refer to multiple-choice tests negatively as "multiple-guess tests". The American Test Anxieties Association reports that "16–20% of students have high test anxiety." Despite the nervousness, tests are important educational tools for many reasons:

  • Tests measure mastery of learning objectives and motivate learners;

  • Tests provide feedback to students and reinforce learning;

  • Tests provide feedback to instructors

  • Pre-tests tell instructors the knowledge and skills that students bring to class, a kind of training needs assessment

  • Post-tests tell instructors the knowledge and skills that students learned

  • Comparison of pre- and post-tests helps determine training effectiveness; and

  • Tests provide documentation of regulatory compliance.

Tests conducted in the learning environment, e.g., a traditional classroom setting, permit students to make immediate corrections so that when learned knowledge or a skill is transferred from short-term to long-term memory, it is transferred correctly. This is critical because it is extremely difficult to "unlearn" incorrect information once it is stored in the brain. Tests conducted in the workplace ensure that learning is transferred and behavior is changed. It is a tragedy when employees use harnesses properly in the classroom, but fail to wear them correctly in the workplace and fall to their death.

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