Seeking quality in criterion referenced assessment

Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Dunn, L, Parry, S & Morgan, C 2002, 'Seeking quality in criterion referenced assessment', Learning Communities and Assessment Cultures Conference organised by the EARLI Special Interest Group on Assessment and Evaluation, University of Northumbria, UK, 28-30 August.

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Over the past decade, traditional norm referenced methods of assessment have come into question, and criterion referenced assessment in undergraduate education has gathered considerable momentum as a method of marking, grading and reporting students' achievements. The value of criterion referencing lies in its capacity to achieve greater transparency in marking and the descriptors it gives us for the abilities and achievements of learners. While the notion of marking and grading against explicit criteria and standards may seem a relatively simple concept, it is complex conceptually and involves a range of problematic assumptions. This paper explores some of the difficulties with implementing criterion referenced assessment, including difficulties in articulating clear and appropriate standards, problems with the alignment of criteria with other elements of the subject or program, and the competence and confidence of university teachers in exercising professional judgement. It is argued that quality and authenticity in criterion referenced assessment are elusive goals and that understanding its guiding principles is not enough. Criterion referenced assessment must be placed in its disciplinary context.