CAERe - Standard setting and grading practices around the world

24 March 2015, 1.00 PM - 24 March 2015, 2.30 PM

Sandra Johnson, Visiting Fellow to the GSoE

1.20, 35 Berkeley Square

Time: 1 - 2:30pm.

Abstract: The inherent function of performance banding (or grading or labelling) is to identify individuals or groups of individuals who have produced higher-meriting performances than others in some defined sense on some given assessment. Banding information might be used for one or more specific high-stakes purposes: in particular, for selection of individuals for further courses of study and, ultimately, for certification; and for aggregation to produce performance distributions for use in school accountability or system monitoring. For these reasons, performance banding is one of the most challenging and one of the most contentious areas of assessment activity, rendering choice of banding strategy, i.e. ‘standard setting’, as well as choice of banding labels, critical elements in any high-stakes assessment system.

Banding outcomes for individuals can be letter grades (e.g. grade B in the English A-level), numeric grades (e.g. ‘4’ in the International Baccalaureate), or verbal labels of some sort (e.g. ‘bien’ in the French Baccalauréat, ‘advanced’ in US statewide assessments, ‘proficiency Level 5’ in PISA). And they can be determined on the basis of marks achieved on tests and examinations, or by human judgement of performance on tasks in the classroom, laboratory or workplace.
Given the many uses that educational assessment serves in the modern world, and the influence that achieved grades can have on the life chances of individuals, the wellbeing of schools, and the tranquillity of educational systems, the processes of standard setting and grading are critical and challenging elements in any high-stakes examining system. Banding strategies and techniques can take many forms, choices about the number of performance bands to associate with different examinations and qualifications are many, and the labels attached to bands vary widely around the world. This variety will be overviewed in the seminar, along with some of the associated technical and political issues.

Biography: Sandra Johnson is a Visiting Fellow in the Graduate School of Education in the University of Bristol. She is an international expert in educational assessment and evaluation, with a professional lifetime of experience in large-scale assessment and school leaving qualifications. She is also a qualified teacher, a Chartered Statistician (Royal Statistical Society) and a Chartered Scientist (Science Society), and a member of the editorial boards of Assessment in Education: Principles, policy and practice and Educational and Psychological Measurement. She was a founding member of the European Educational Research Association (EERA), co-launched EERA’s Student Assessment Network with Wynne Harlen, and served as the network’s link convenor over its first decade (for which she has been awarded honorary network membership). She was also a founding member of the Association for Educational Assessment - Europe (AEA-Europe), and is a Fellow of the Association and a member of the Council.

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Guoxing Yu

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