Notes on: Byrne, C. (1975) 'Assessment systems and student learning'. In Baggaley, P.  et al (eds) Aspects of Educational Technology VIII.  Pitman Press: Bath: 197--205

Dave Harris

There are problems in assembling a number of assessment results into an overall system.  Assessment can be formative or summative, with the former tending to be informal, although there is now a trend to formality.  Summative assessment is seen as the statement of what has been learned, and is useful for employers and others.  Assembled assessment results can take the form of:

An index, A conflated score, often weighted.  The rationale for the weights can be a problem.  It might be connected to external criteria, but this is difficult: for example job requirements differ.  The index can conceal variations.

A profile.  There is no conflation.  Independent sections of courses are assessed.  Scores can be tested [for reliability] by correlations between the tests of performances on two sections.  The separate dimensions of the profile can be supplied from a 'psychometric approach'.

Problems with conflation arise because if the components are separate enough to warrant separate tests, how can they be related?  All is well if the components can be seen to build to mastery, but there is still a problem of disentangling the effects on the overall score of earlier knowledge that is required [which students bring to the course].  Only estimates are available. 

The use of continual assessment throughout the course often simply assumes that there is this building towards mastery.  It is sometimes also assumed that final examinations lack validity that is they are scored unreliably, so that additional items are needed.  Continuous assessment can remove uncertainty for students [and also cool them out better!], But there are still some problems:

Items are valid only if there is an agreement on what is being tested.  Examinations need a link to suitable formative assessment.  Adding items does not always increase the validity overall.  Student efforts are harnessed best through formative assessment.  Students like assessment to give them some direction and control over this study—giving equal weight to each assignment might motivate students, but this can also make no sense in terms of the logic of building towards some summative outcome.  It is necessary to link up the formative and summative in order to provide more credibility with the former [but you do get rehearsal effects]

more education studies