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Published on the 05.04.2019

Why You Should Do Positioning Tests
An analysis by Svetlana Meyer, science manager @Didask


  • Svetlana Meyer is a cognitive science researcher associated with the Psychology and NeuroCognition Laboratory. She is also the scientific manager at Didask.
  • Didask is a French startup, of Edtech (obviously), which offers an online learning method that has the particularity of offering a pedagogy anchored in the cognitive sciences."
  • We particularly like what they do for the world of Education.

On March 13, 2019, Svetlana Meyer, Scientific Director of Didask, published Teaching Efficiency # 2: Beware of Misperceptions. First, we recommend reading it and even reading their blog “DisDonc Didask”.

But a term particularly caught our attention. The positioning test. As soon as we read the article, we called them and hosted them as part of our WeTestEd session podcast, especially to learn more about it.

So, what is a positioning test? Simply put, it is a diagnostic test that is provided to the learner before and after a learning cycle. The goal is to know what is the starting point of each learner before entering the learning phase and its point of arrival post phase.

Until then all is well, this kind of test seems to be extremely useful and adapted to a pedagogy that could be described as "agile", or comparable to the Innovation Classroom Don Wettrick.

However, it seems that this test is generally, and strangely, neglected by the community of trainers. Why?

"In this kind of entity, the trainers have two main objectives: on the one hand there is pedagogical effectiveness and on the other hand commitment/ engagement. Their fear is that the positioning test is perceived by the learners as a context of performance evaluation," Svetlana Meyer explains.

"In our opinion, it is not the positioning test that will trigger this feeling of being evaluated, it is rather the context in which it is given; the trainers facing the learner and the language used which can be the trigger. If this test is considered as a simple diagnosis, the learner will never feel threatened, " adds Svetlana Meyer.

Too bad! Especially that this type of test has many benefits. First, it allows you to precisely mark the learning process of each learner and this for two reasons:

  • first of all this test requires a cognitive effort to the learner who will have to mobilize knowledge which is potentially already existing and which will thus reinforce the trace in memory associated with this knowledge there
  • then there is what is called the illusion of control. As long as one has not tested his knowledge, one can have the feeling of being "super strong" on a subject whereas it is only when he will be confronted with a situation where he will have to mobilize knowledge that we will understand that this is not so much the case. Here the positioning test can clarify the learning for the trainers but also, and especially for the learner

The positioning test is, therefore, an evaluation model with which trainers and teachers should reconcile themselves with because its contributions to learning seem to be more than beneficial!

The lesson for this test, as for any other type of assessment of a learner (whether professional or student), is that it is important to work on the context more than the evaluation format.

A detail can make a difference. "When we look at the grade for example. We see a lot of debates on the grades, on the forms they should have: do we have to put a number, a colour, an appreciation, etc.? Whereas what matters is its context. If the context in which a grade arrives is competitive, then the student will feel it and adapt to it, " says Svetlana.

"The student will adopt a competitive posture toward others. He will feel his worth judged and will feel the need to protect himself from bad judgments. So all his attention will be captured by this need for protection against judgments rather than on his learning, "adds Svetlana Meyer.

There is much food for thought when we know that the stress of grades and exams is very high among students, especially in higher education, and that it is one of the sources of skills deficit.

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