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Title: Student Assessment in higher Education: A handbook for assessing performance

Allen H. Miller- Bradford W Imrie- Kevin Cox

Cox, K., Imrie, B.W., & Miller, A.H. (1998). Student assessment in higher education: A
handbook for assessing performance. London: Routledge.

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle.
Location: Publisher.

This comprehensive overview of higher educational assessment features a guide to
setting, marking and reviewing the coursework, assignments, tests and
examinations used in higher education. In addition, the authors examine the
various programs for certificates, diplomas, first degrees as well as higher degrees.
The strong influence that assessment has on the way students approach their
learning is also discussed. Truly international in focus, this book features authors
with higher education experience in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, England,
Canada, Hong Kong, USA, and Thailand.

Question: in HIED today, assessment is broadly divided into normative and

formative. Provide from your experience illustrations of normative assessment.
What are its priorities? What are its motivations?

International Focus:

Normative Definition according to

nor·ma·tive Audio Help [nawr-muh-tiv] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA

1.of or pertaining to a norm, esp. an assumed norm regarded as the standard of
correctness in behavior, speech, writing, etc.
2.tending or attempting to establish such a norm, esp. by the prescription of rules:
normative grammar.
3.reflecting the assumption of such a norm or favoring its establishment: a normative


Formative- “ provide students with information which will help them judge the
effectiveness of their learning strategies to date. It also alerts teachers to any sections of
the course or approactes to teaching where students are having difficulties and which may
need further attention.

Normative/Summative- the main part of Summative assessment is to make a judgement

regarding each student’s performance. They are expressed at marks, percentages, grades,
or classification. It may also be defined as a measure of a students’ performance or level
of achievement at the end of a sequence of study and serves three main purposes.

Assessing Learners in Higher Education

Summative- includes end-of-course assessment and essentially means that this is
assemsnet which produces a measure which sums up someone’s achievement and which
has no other real use except as a description of what has been achieved.

Wikipedia: norm-referenced test

A norm-referenced test is a type of test, assessment, or evaluation

in which the tested individual is compared to a sample of his or her peers
(referred to as a "normative sample").[1]

Other types
Alternative to normative testing, tests can be ipsative, that is, the
individual assessment is compared to him- or her-self through time.[2][3]

By contrast, a test is criterion-referenced when provision is made for

translating the test score into a statement about the behavior to be
expected of a person with that score. The same test can be used in both
ways.[4] Robert Glaser originally coined the terms "norm-referenced test"
and "criterion-referenced test".[5]

Standards-based education reform is based on the belief that public

education should establish what every student should know and be able
to do.[6] Students should be tested against a fixed yardstick, rather than
against each other or sorted into a mathematical bell curve. [7] By
assessing that every student must pass these new, higher standards,
education officials believe that all students will achieve a diploma that
prepares them for success in the 21st century.[8]

Common use
Most state achievement tests are criterion referenced. In other words, a
predetermined level of acceptable performance is developed and
students pass or fail in achieving or not achieving this level. Tests that
set goals for students based on the average student's performance are
norm-referenced tests. Tests that set goals for students based on a set
standard (e.g., 80 words spelled correctly) are criterion-referenced

Many college entrance exams and nationally used school tests use norm-
referenced tests. The SAT, Graduate Record Examination (GRE), and
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) compare individual
student performance to the performance of a normative sample. Test-
takers cannot "fail" a norm-referenced test, as each test-taker receives a
score that compares the individual to others that have taken the test,
usually given by a percentile. This is useful when there is a wide range of
acceptable scores that is different for each college. For example one
estimate of the average SAT score for Harvard University is 2200 out of
2400 possible. The average for Indiana University is 1650[9].

By contrast, nearly two-thirds of US high school students will be required

to pass a criterion-referenced high school graduation examination. One
high fixed score is set at a level adequate for university admission
whether the high school graduate is college bound or not. Each state
gives its own test and sets its own passing level, with states like
Massachusetts showing very high pass rates, while in Washington State,
even average students are failing, as well as 80 percent of some minority
groups. This practice is opposed by many in the education community
such as Alfie Kohn as unfair to groups and individuals who don't score as
high as others.
Advantages and limitations
An obvious disadvantage of norm-referenced tests is that it cannot
measure progress of the population of a whole, only where individuals
fall within the whole. Thus, only measuring against a fixed goal can be
used to measure the success of an educational reform program which
seeks to raise the achievement of all students against new standards
which seek to assess skills beyond choosing among multiple choices.
However, while this is attractive in theory, in practice the bar has often
been moved in the face of excessive failure rates, and improvement
sometimes occurs simply because of familiarity with and teaching to the
same test.

With a norm-referenced test, grade level was traditionally set at the

level set by the middle 50 percent of scores.[10] By contrast, the National
Children's Reading Foundation believes that it is essential to assure that
virtually all of our children read at or above grade level by third grade, a
goal which cannot be achieved with a norm referenced definition of
grade level.[11]

Critics of criterion-referenced tests point out that judges set bookmarks

around items of varying difficulty without considering whether the items
actually are compliant with grade level content standards or are
developmentally appropriate.[12] Thus, the original 1997 sample
problems published for the WASL 4th grade mathematics contained items
that were difficult for college educated adults, or easily solved with 10th
grade level methods such as similar triangles.[13]

The difficulty level of items themselves, as are the cut-scores to

determine passing levels are also changed from year to year.[14] Pass
rates also vary greatly from the 4th to the 7th and 10th grade graduation
tests in some states.[15]

One of the faults of No Child Left Behind is that each state can choose or
construct its own test which cannot be compared to any other state.[16]
A Rand study of Kentucky results found indications of artificial inflation
of pass rates which were not reflected in increasing scores in other tests
such as the NAEP or SAT given to the same student populations over the
same time.[17]

Graduation test standards are typically set at a level consistent for

native born 4 year university applicants. An unusual side effect is that
while colleges often admit immigrants with very strong math skills who
may be deficient in english, there is no such leeway in high school
graduation tests, which usually require passing all sections, including
language. Thus, it is not unusual for institutions like the University of
Washington to admit strong Asian American or Latino students who did
not pass the writing portion of the state WASL test, but such students
would not even receive a diploma once the testing requirement is in

Although the tests such as the WASL are intended as a minimal bar for
high school, 27 percent of 10th graders applying for Running Start in
Washington State failed the math portion of the WASL. These students
applied to take college level courses in high school, and achieve at a
much higher level than average students. The same studyc oncluded the
level of difficulty was comparable to, or greater than that of tests
intended to place students already admitted to the college. [18]

A norm referenced test has none of these problems because it does not
seek to enforce any expectation of what all students should know or be
able to do other than what actual students demonstrate. Present levels
of performance and inequity are taken as fact, not as defects to be
removed by a redesigned system. Goals of student performance are not
raised every year until all are proficient. Scores are not required to show
continuous improvement through Total Quality Management systems.

A rank-based system only produces data which tell which average

students perform at an average level, which students do better, and
which students do worse. This contradicts the fundamental beliefs,
whether optimistic or simply unfounded, that all will perform at one
uniformly high level in a standards based system if enough incentives and
punishments are put into place. This difference in beliefs underlies the
most significant differences between a traditional and a standards based
education system.

1. ^ a b Assessment Guided Practices
2. ^ Assessment
3. ^ PDF presentation
4. ^ Cronbach, L. J. (1970). Essentials of psychological testing (3rd
ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
5. ^ Glaser, R. (1963). Instructional technology and the measurement of
learning outcomes. American Psychologist, 18, 510-522.
6. ^ [1] Illinois Learning Standards
7. ^ stories 5-01.html Times on Testing "criterion
referenced" tests measure students against a fixed yardstick, not
against each other.
8. ^ [2] By the Numbers: Rising Student Achievement in Washington State
by Terry Bergesn "She continues her pledge ... to ensure all
students achieve a diploma that prepares them for success in the
21st century."
9. ^ [3] "What is a Good SAT Score?" From Jay Brody Aug 2006
10. ^ [4] NCTM: News & Media: Assessment Issues (Newsbulletin April
2004) "by definition, half of the nation's students are below grade
level at any particular moment"
11. ^ [5] National Children's Reading Foundation website
12. ^ [6] HOUSE BILL REPORT HB 2087 "A number of critics ... continue to
assert that the mathematics WASL is not developmentally
appropriate for fourth grade students."
13. ^ Prof Don Orlich, Washington State University
14. ^ [7]Panel lowers bar for passing parts of WASL By Linda Shaw, Seattle
Times May 11, 2004 "A blue-ribbon panel voted unanimously
yesterday to lower the passing bar in reading and math for the
fourth- and seventh-grade exam, and in reading on the 10th-grade
15. ^ [8] Seattle Times December 06, 2002 Study: Math in 7th-grade
WASL is hard By Linda Shaw "Those of you who failed the math
section ... last spring had a harder test than your counterparts in
the fourth or 10th grades."
16. ^ [9] New Jersey Department of Education: "But we already have tests
in New Jersey, why have another test? Our statewide test is an
assessment that only New Jersey students take. No comparisons
should be made to other states, or to the nation as a whole.
17. ^ [10] Test-Based Accountability Systems (Rand) "NAEP data are
particularly important ...Taken together, these trends suggest
appreciable inflation of gains on KIRIS. ...
18. ^ [11]Relationship of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning
(WASL) and Placement Tests Used at Community and Technical
Colleges By: Dave Pavelchek, Paul Stern and Dennis Olson Social &
Economic Sciences Research Center, Puget Sound Office, WSU "The
average difficulty ratings for WASL test questions fall in the middle
of the range of difficulty ratings for the college placement tests."
See also

The term "normative assessment" refers to the process of comparing one

test-taker to his or her peers.[1]



ACT and 127 institutions (primarily community colleges) worked together on a Partners
in Progress Research project comparing ASSET reading, writing, and math scores
(incoming student placement tests) with CAAP reading, writing, and math scores (exiting
student outcomes test). This was in order to refine the content of the related exams, and
establish the degree of statistical relationship between them so that student intellectual
growth might be measured between the student's point of entry and the point of exit from
the institution. Administrators at Mid-Plains Community College Area (MPCCA)
compared 108 pairs of ASSET and CAAP reading scores. Results indicated that reading
improvement of MPCCA students was comparable with the public, two-year college
normative percentages of improvement, with the majority of students achieving expected
gains in their reading. In terms of writing test cohort, 163 matched ASSET/CAAP
outcomes indicated that MPCCA students improved their writing ability at a slightly
higher rate than the norm. For 162 ASSET/CAAP math outcomes, results indicated that
although MPCCA had slightly more students improving at a lower rate than expected,
they also had slightly more students improving at a slightly higher rate than the norm.
3. Loyola University



Pg. 54!
Normative Assessment~

What is Normative Assessment: Answers the question, “ How do I compare to others?”

“Normative assessment makes qualitative judgments about the level of achievement

relative to other students…. Normative assessment can work with suppressed criteria
(“impression marks”) or with an itemized marking scheme. The underlying question for
the assessor is not what has the student achieved but that person’s achievement relative to
others undertaking the same assessment. The assessor may compare the work assessed
with the work of others to get a rank order. This ranking usually goes with a system of
allocating marks or grades.
*Citation for the above excerpt*
Ashcroft, K., Foreman-Peck, L. (1994). Managing teaching and learning in further and higher education.
London: Routledge.

Normative assessment is used in a variety of areas in Higher Education:

1. SAT & the GRE are forms of Normative Assessment; which is used for
comparative purposes for entrance into different programs.
2. Identify comprehensive information of an institution’s incoming first-year
students’ characteristics: parental income and education, ethnicity, financial aid,
attitudes, beliefs, and self-concept.(See Link #1: CIRP)
3. Identify ways an institution can improve itself.
“Assessment of student learning demonstrates that the institution’s
students have knowledge, skills, and competencies consistent with
institutional and program goals and that graduates meet appropriate higher
education goals.” In providing the context for this standard, Middle States
goes on to say, “The systematic assessment of student learning outcomes
is essential to monitoring quality and providing the information that leads
to improvement. […] The mission of the institution provides focus and
direction to its outcomes assessment plan.”1

-When focusing on where individuals fall within a given population, this method
handicaps itself by not being able to measure the progress of the whole

Links to normative assessment examples:

-This program (CIRP) identifies a national normative profile for the entering
Middle States Commission on Higher Education. (2002). Characteristics of excellence in higher
education: Eligibility requirements and standards for accreditation. Philadelphia, PA: Author.
freshman class, and it is used to examine: readiness for college, student values
and beliefs about diversity and civic engagement....
Plan Final Version.DOC – Loyola College’s Assessment Plan