Professional Development Workshop at UC

Professional Development Workshop at UC

By Nick Yinger ( Paul Heng Visiting Fellow)


The University of Cambodia (UC) hosted a professional development workshop for faculty members about test-writing and assessment led by visiting Paul Heng Fellow, Dr. Dawn Bikowski, on August 6, 2011. The two-hour event was held at the University and was well-attended by instructors seeking professional development to work and share ideas on test-writing. The workshop was organized by Chheng Pay How, Director of the Center for English Studies (CES), whom Dr. Bikowski had been working with on the English placement test.

The session was in two parts, the first being lecture-based with Dr. Bikowski asking questions of the participants and the second being hands-on with faculty writing questions and giving one another feedback.

Together, the participants discussed the need to write good test questions, designing level-appropriate content based on the English levels of the students, and developing other means of assessment beyond multiple choice questions.

UC English instructor Pok Sethy said that the participants learned a good deal.

"Writing test items can be difficult," he said. "Even though it was a short workshop, we got a lot because, as teachers, we could share ideas with one another."

Both he and fellow English instructor Francis K. Kodjoe would like to see more professional development opportunities like this for instructors in the future.

Dr. Bikowski is the Director of the English Language Improvement Program (ELIP) at Ohio University in the United States and regularly teaches a graduate-level course on test-writing and assessment.

"It is very easy to write a bad test question," she said. "That is probably because as test-takers we are not used to taking a well-written test ourselves. This is why companies like the ETS, which makes the TOEFL and the GRE tests, pay so much money every year to run statistics on all their tests to make sure their questions are fair."

The multiple choice test question is the most difficult to write well, Dr. Bikowski added. Too many professors want to trick

students or simply do not understand how to create good distracters, or incorrect choices.

At Ohio University, in the course Dr. Bikowski annually instructs, students develop a placement test over a ten-week period. She also teaches high-level English to international students and other courses to graduate students in the school’s Linguistics program.

Dr. Bikowski served as a visiting Paul Heng Fellow at the University of Cambodia for three weeks and worked on a variety of projects focusing on curriculum and instruction and testing.