Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Criteria and Standards

With every assessment that is given, there needs to be a specific set of goals behind that assessment to make the results become meaningful and useful. Without those standards and recognized criteria, an assessment cannot be an accurate measurement of the abilities or skills possessed by the learner. While many instructors and students will spend most of their time focusing on the results, we as potential instructors would need to recognize the methods used to develop the standards by which results are measured.

The need of Standards
As previously stated, standards are required to make an accurate picture of the skill level of a learner through the results of an assessment. The actual assessment method is not necessarily important, as long as it can accurately show the performance of an individual with regards to a specific skill set.

The first order would be to define the standards that are to be identified by the assessment, and how performance indicators for these standards should be adapted to the target student population (Browder, 2003). The criteria being set need to be standard across the board, so that accurate results can be measured. Once set, various assessment methods can be applied to measure those particular performance requirements.

The example given by Browder would be methods of assessing the performance and skill level of disabled students. In this situation, passing out milk to other classmates in the morning can address standards in listening, speaking, number operations, and problem solving (Browder, 2003). This same can be said with a learning team within the University of Phoenix. Team behavior can be used to assess organization skills, team-building abilities, leadership qualities, and teamwork skills. The assessments in both examples are not standard written assessments, but yet have the same qualitative properties, if the criteria being measured are taken in context of the demonstrated skills in each activity.

With the understanding that standards for several criteria are being set and need to be reached with each assessment, it becomes necessary to define the criteria to the student. Otherwise the student will tend to become unaware of the standards they are required to reach, and thereby left to imagine their own requirements, right or wrong (Hinett, 1997). This can lead to misunderstandings that inhibit the student’s ability to perform under ideal conditions for proper assessment.

This is where rubrics become important to students. They define the standards that are required, and outline what criteria are assessed in the learning environment. This initial rubric can take the form of a complete course outline with grade expectations and assessment points that will be looked at, or it can be a simple set of instructions and rules to follow during the assessment. At each level certain standards are required identified and presented to the learners for clarification and guidance to what is expected of them.

Developing Standards
Now that we understand why standards are important and how they are implemented in an evaluation environment, it is now necessary to understand how such standards are developed. Black and Duhon (2003) identify a clear way to develop standard requirements and grant validity to assessment findings. They identify valid criteria as results to the extent which scores on the test are correlated with other variables that the instructing institution expects for associated test performance (Black, 2003). This method is generally developed as the results of previous experience of the educational institution with similar student reactions. Once the school has identified the standard they wish to set through their experience, they can then compare their findings with those of other schools with similar demographics. This presents an industry standard that is expected for all schools to reach. But suppose a new concept, technology, skill, or process is developed? How is one to identify a correct method of measurement that has the potential of standardizing criteria being assessed?

The method can easily be identified by first identifying the criteria of the assessment itself. Is there a skill that should be identified, and if so, how can it be measured? Once that concept is identified, similar methods can be used as control comparisons. The example that Black and Duhon use relates to the performance of business majors on the new Educational Service’s Test (ETS) Major Field Test in Business. The goal was to see how accurate common methods of assessing achievement would measure up to the ETS.
The criteria
The students being tested were being organized with the following criteria in mind:
1. GPA (both in Business specific courses, and overall)
2. ACT/SAT scores (Both accumulative and English/Math only)
3. Age difference
4. Gender
5. Major emphasis

The results
Once the material was gathered the following results were gathered:
1. For each Business GPA point increase, the average ETS score was 7.49 points higher.
2. For each Accumulative ACT score point increase, an average of 1.51 points increase was found for the ETS.
3. For every year increase in age, an increase of 0.71 points was average on the ETS.
4. As for Gender, males tended to score 3.79 points over women.
5. In respect to a major emphasis, those majoring in Management tended to score 3.57 points lower than all other majors, once all other criteria had been controlled.

Once the statistics have been gathered, it is now important to understand how they are significant. If there is a high correlation (+/- 0.70) between any pair of independent individuals, it indicates a statistical mean, with it’s corresponding distortions (Black, 2003). Once a mean or “collinearity” has been reached, it represents a valid, measurement that can be used as a standard towards additional results. It identifies the statistical predictions of where students will generally score based on previous experience, skill exposure, and educational background. Once that standard can be reliably measured, assessments become equally reliable.

So, through identifying statistical trends in scoring results, as well as the criteria that should be measured, evaluations and assessments can be used as a reliable tool for instructors to see what requirements need to be met in order to produce the best results in education. Students are also able to realize those requirements by following defining tools such as rubrics that are presented to guide them through their educational aims. It keeps them mindful of the standards required by the educational institution, and thereby keeps them focused on the skills that the course is supposed to teach them.

Hinett, Karen Review Symposium: Enhancing Learning through Self-assessment, Assessment in Education, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1997, p. 321

Browder, Diane; Spooner, Fred; Algozzine, Robert; Ahlgrim-Delzell, Lynn; Flowers, Claudia; Karvonen, Meagan What We Know And Need to Know About Alternative Assessment, Exceptional Children, Fall 2003, Vol. 70, Iss. 1, p. 45

Black, H. Tyrone; Duhon, David L. Evaluating and Improving Student Achievement in Business Programs: The Effective Use of Standardized Assessment Tests, Journal of Education for Business, Washington, Nov/Dec 2003. Vol. 79, Iss. 2, pg. 90

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