Friday, December 16, 2011

Kinds of Assessment (Part I)

There's way too much jargon around, and it confuses the stakeholders in education. If you confuse the stakeholders too much, they might misstake the vampires and die horribly. Heh.

And so, here is my convenient guide to kinds of assessment.

1. Differentiated by benchmark type

1.1 Criterion-based assessment: this type involves an assessor scoring the candidate assessed on the basis of whether specific behaviours or accomplishments match expectations of the assessor's master document or reference, model or exemplar, or expert judgement.

1.2 Norm-based assessment: given a sufficiently-large sample of population and a clear ranking system that would justify relative rankings within that sample, the candidate is assessed in terms of performance relative to that sample and ranked in comparison to it.

1.3 Self-based assessment: the candidate is assessed relative to earlier performances, with the assessor deciding if the candidate has performed better or worse compared to herself, himself or itself.

2. Differentiated by instrument type

This kind has more kinds on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy, Horatio. Essentially, we have many ways of assigning quantitative values to candidate performances. All have flaws, but some are more appropriate to specific situations than others. The most comprehensive is probably apprenticeship, where the candidate's work over a period of years is evaluated by a recognized master at the task-set/skill-set which the candidate is learning.

Some common instrumental approaches are 'performance-based' in which the candidate's behaviour leading to an outcome is examined, and 'outcomes-based' in which the candidate's final product is examined.

3. Differentiated by purpose

3.1 Normative assessment: the candidate is assessed in order to develop a larger population of assessed candidates so that the assessor can figure out what the typical or desirable performance should be. This is normally used when the desired outcome is not clearly anticipated or known.

3.2 Formative assessment: the candidate is assessed in order to develop performance by response to assessment-based feedback.

3.3 Summative assessment: the candidate is assessed in order to compile a complete evaluation of one or more dimensions of performance; the word 'evaluation' is used because the assignment of value relative to a context (e.g. an overall grade) is a necessary outcome of this type of assessment.

3.4 Assessment for learning: this superficially resembles formative assessment. The problem here is the term 'learning'. The performance is to be developed in the assumption that improved performance implies learning. It can be difficult to prove this.

3.5 Assessment of learning: this superficially resembles summative assessment. The problem here is again the term 'learning'. The overall assessment is evaluated, with the candidate's relatively good performance in a given context assumed to imply superior learning to those with relatively worse performance. It can be likewise difficult to prove this.

3.6 Diagnostic assessment: assessment carried out at a fixed point in a process to determine the present state of the candidate, and especially what course or regime is required for further development or progress. It can be used for formative assessment.

3.7 Predictive assessment: assessment carried out by visualising the likely trajectory of the candidate given a hypothetical future state and the present state. Used to determine future value of candidate. It can also be used for formative assessment. (Actually, a sufficiently creative teacher can use anything formatively. Or reformatively, if necessary.)

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The next post will deal with the deeper (and more sinister, perhaps?) ideas behind assessment. See last line in 3.7 above.

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