Assessment and Learning: State of the field review

There is a new review study on assessment and learning by Baird et al for the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for Education. The reason? As the Oxford University Centre for EducationalAssessment notes Assessment has come to be a very powerful force because of its natural alliance with neoliberal, new public management views on measuring quality. However, the data have taken on a life of their own at times, with the content and processes of learning receiving less attention. The purpose of this review was to produce an overview of research articles that link learning and assessment, to investigate the state of the field and to reignite attention in this important area“.

Download the report here.

What are the conclusions?

  1. The current dominant learning theory in the field of assessment and psychometrics is a cognitive constructivist paradigm.  Sociocultural approaches remain challenging to fit within an assessment framework.
  2. Although the impact of assessment for learning upon learning outcomes has been over-claimed, recent research indicates that it does have an educationally significant impact upon teaching and learning.
  3. Knowledge of learning should have gained more from the application of psychometrics to assessment data.  A more integrated approach to assessment and learning is required if this field is to advance our understanding.
  4. International testing is a highly contested field that is assuming greater importance. A close connection with the meaning of the international test scores, in terms of learning outcomes is sometimes lacking in this area.
  5. Traditional definitions of validity are being challenged by postmodern approaches.

An executive summary:

The state of the field review of the research literature on assessment and learning covers major developments internationally this century. The intersection between assessment and learning is of utmost importance for the promotion or hindrance of quality in education. This topic is important around the world, but Norwegians have specifically been calling for more work in this area so that questions can be answered about how much children are learning in schools. As in other countries, there has been concern that there is a lack of an assessment culture. For a long time, grading children’s schoolwork was seen as detrimental to their learning, motivation and feelings about themselves. Cultural and historical reasons for this differ in each setting, but in Norway this is related to societal values of equity, inclusion and democracy, which were antithetical to national testing. In this environment, the introduction of international tests provided hitherto unavailable sources of data. Our cross-cutting theme in this review relates to how valuable learning is shaped and defined by assessment theory and practice. How societies, including Norwegian society, will be influenced by the uptake of particular approaches to defining learning through assessment technologies* is an important issue. Assessment is not a neutral activity and through this review we seek to depict how the literature has explored the relationships between assessment and learning

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