How the Use of Different Devices Impacts Standardized Testing Performance

Students using tablets to learn

The classroom is being transformed by the use of tablets for assessment purposes as well as instruction. Dr. Laurie Davis is the Director of Solutions Implementation at the Pearson Assessment Center. In her review of eLearning research, Dr. Davis has found that academic use of tablets is increasing as “Bring Your Own Device” and 1:1 technology initiatives become more commonplace in schools. These facts have led her to study how different types of devices and computers impact student performance when testing.

Dr. Davis has conducted two large-scale quantitative comparability studies, examining student performance on tablets vs. student performance on computers when testing the same set of items. The first of these studies compared the performance of 5th grade students and high school students when writing a short essay on a laptop computer, a tablet with onscreen keyboard, and a tablet with an external keyboard. The second study compared high school student performance on a variety of item types (multiple choice and technology enhanced items) across multiple content areas (reading, mathematics, and science).

Through ongoing usability studies and cognitive labs, Dr. Davis has developed a process of transitioning to tablet-based assessments while maintaining a student experience that is optimized for tablet delivery, and which does not introduce disadvantages for students. While tablets offer an attractive option for creating engaging assessment experiences, it is important to examine several key differences in how students interact with tablets that could potentially result in advantages or disadvantages relative to students taking the tests on desktop computers.

In many cases, it is possible to design solutions for the tablet which can mitigate these concerns by optimizing the user interface for navigation, tool functionality, and display of test content such as reading passages. Research is guiding interface design and assessment item rendering strategies that take tablet-based delivery into consideration. Additionally, these studies show how factors like device peripherals, such as keyboards and styluses; device size; and device specific features, such as tablet rotation or pinch-and-zoom, impact the students’ experience while testing.

Performance results from both studies as well as student perspectives on testing on tablets collected through surveys will be shared during Dr. Davis’ session, What You Need to Know Before Testing with Tablets, at the upcoming 2015 USDLA Conference in St. Louis, Missouri on April 28. Attendees will hear several practical issues to be considered in setting up schools and classrooms to test on tablets and will learn about the ongoing series of usability studies, cognitive labs, and score comparability research designed to thoughtfully promote a transition of assessments to tablets. In the meantime, have a look at the fully packed agenda.


About Laurie Davis
Laurie Davis, Ph.D.

Laurie Davis, Ph.D.

Dr. Laurie Davis has worked for Pearson for more than a decade and is currently responsible for the strategic direction of Psychometric Services in Austin, Texas. Her primary responsibilities include program design, development and evaluation, research/experimental design, and interpretation and communication of results of research analyses for multiple audiences. Dr. Davis additionally leads Pearson’s research efforts in the area of Digital Devices with the goal of establishing best practice for fairly assessing students on touch-screen tablet devices. Her current research interests include the incorporation of technology to enhance assessment and measurement.