Assessments in Education

According to Sutton (1991), assessment plays important role to promote students’ learning process and provides the information of students’ performance. In addition, the assessments can influence the teachers and students to conduct the teaching and learning process. However, the teacher plays important role to promote the students’ learning through the assessments (Murphy, 1996 as cited in Wood, 1996). The assessments provide the powerful effects on the students’ motivation (Broadfoot, 1996 as cited in Wood, 1996). Therefore, it is important for the teachers to understand the strength and limitation of each type of assessments. As a result, the teachers can use varied type assessments to assess their students properly. There are three types of assessments which are norm-referenced, criteria-referenced, and goal-based assessment ( Smith & Lovat, 1995)

Norm-referenced Assessment

“Norm-referenced assessment is designed to enable comparative judgments, child against child, children again the norm” (Sutton, 1991, p. 4). There are two forms of norm-referenced assessment which are external examinations and standardized tests (Smith & Lovat, 1995). The external examinations conduct on the final year to assess students’ performance in the same time, test, and conditions (Smith & Lovat, 1995). The results of this assessment will classify the students who fail and pass. Furthermore, “the standardized tests are measuring devices which have been normed on one population and then used to measure the performance of another similar population” (Smith & Lovat, 1995, p.173). This test assumes that the result in the one population can be used as a measurement to another population. Therefore, the norm-referenced assessment is part of technical interest which focuses on the controlling students and academic achievement (Grundy, 1987).

The norm-referenced assessment has several limitations such as lack of reliability and validity. The result of this assessment does not show the real students’ performance, for example, students’ strategies to solve the problems cannot be measured on the norm-referenced assessment. Even though, the students get the same answer, they may apply different strategies to answer the questions. Their strategies will show their knowledge of the subject (Car & Ritchie, 1991). Therefore, this test only indicates the students’ success compared to their peers and does not measure the real students’ knowledge (Gipps & Murphy, 1994). Because it focuses on the students’ score, it will influence the teachers to increase the result of examination (Car & Ritchie, 1991). They can ignore the process of teaching and learning process. It also can influence the students through the rank of achievement. Even though, some students can be motivated to achieve the better result than their friends, but the other can lost their self-esteem and motivation. Therefore, the norm-referenced assessment can disrupt the quality of teaching and learning process of students and teachers (Stiggins, 2001).

However, the teachers who have many students will be easier to conduct the norm-referenced assessment. Even though, they should not only use this assessment to assess their students, because the result does not fully represent the students’ knowledge. However, the teachers can use the information to get the framework of the students’ achievement. For example, they can use the information to improve their teaching strategies if the result of the assessment is inadequate. Furthermore, the norm-referenced assessment may be used for the selection process such as TEE (Tertiary Entrance Examination) in Western Australia. However, Dr Tannock (cited in Day, 1995) claim that it does not fully assess students’ competences, because it only focus to rank the students. However, in my opinion, it may be used as a selection assessment, but it needs to combine with the other types of assessment. As a result, the measurement will be valuable and fair for the students.

Criteria-referenced Assessment

“Criteria-referenced assessment measures the child’s performance against predetermined expectations, which are usually written down and built into the assessment process” (Sutton, 1991, p.5). “The criteria may relate to the content of material measured “(Smith & Lovat, 1995, p.174). The criteria can be used to assess students’ assessment. However, teachers have to be careful to use the criteria to assess their students’ performance.

The criteria-referenced assessment can influence students to focus on their learning process, not only the result. Because this assessment can assess specify each students’ performance, each student will focus to improve their weakness of the criteria achievement. Furthermore, the criteria-referenced assessment provides the detailed information of the students’ competencies (Gipps & Murphy, 1994). They really know specifically what the competence that they need to improve. The teachers also can be used the information to assess the learning process and the performance of each students.

However, it may be difficult to apply the criteria-referenced assessment in the large classes, because the teachers have to concern on each student’s assessment. It will be time consuming. In addition, teachers have to be aware that this assessment can trap them into the normative approach (Parkinson, 2004). However, it can be applied in the large classes with the teachers’ competence and willingness. Therefore, the teachers’ competence to assess the students’ performance in this type of assessment is important. The teachers have to be fair to assess how their students achieve the criteria. The teachers also have to be hard working to get the valid information of their assessment.

Goal-based Assessment

Goal-based assessment is a form of assessment which involves teacher and student collaboration to determine the goals of teaching and learning process (Smith & Lovat, 1995). Therefore, the students can construct and organize their own learning through this assessment. The collaboration will involve through the learning process.

The goal-based assessment will influence the students’ motivation, because they get valuable information to control their own achievement. They tend to give the best competence to complete the work (Smith & Lovat, 1995). This assessment also involves metacognitive skills which the students aware of their own learning. Metacognition gives meaningful learning for students because “metacognition involves among other things taking responsibility for own’s learning process” (Anderson & Nashon, 2006, p.299). The students will understand their thinking process and understanding the concepts (Wellman, 1983 as cited in Pressley, Mac Kinno,& Waller, 1985, p.2). Most studied of students’ understanding stated solutions trough giving meaningful learning experiences (Treagust, Chittleborough, & Mamiala, 2004; Rickey & Stacy, 2000). Therefore, metacognitive skills are important to understanding the ideas and give significant impact on problem solving (Rickey, & Stacy, 2000, p.195). The other important effect is teacher-student relationship. The teacher will be the facilitator and the students become the collaborator in their learning process (Smith & Lovat, 1995). The good relationship between teacher and student can improve the quality of teaching and learning process.

However, the goal-based assessment will be time consuming in the each stage of collaboration (Smith & Lovat, 1995). Teachers also need to improve their skills in the process of collaboration with the students to get the valuable information from this assessment. However, teacher can use this kind of assessment to get the benefits of this assessment and combine with the other kind of assessments. Furthermore, this table shows the characteristics which include the advantages and disadvantages of each type of assessment:


Norm-referenced Assessment

Criteria-referenced Assessment

Goal-based Assessment


Standarize, Comparative judgement


Goal based on teacher-student collaboration


Rank the students’ achievement Selection purposes,

Assess each students’ achievement based on criteria

Construct meaningful assessment through students’ participation


Students’ ranking

Each students’ performance on certain criteria

Students’ performance on each stage of learning process

Teacher Role

Assessor based on test result

Assessor based on criteria, require teachers’ skill (training)

Facilitator collaborate with students, require teachers’ skill (training)


Less time consuming

Time consuming

Time consuming


Lost self esteem because get the lower score/ranking, focus on the result, motivation for get the high result

Monitor their own progress, motivation to improve their achievement on certain criteria

Construct their own assessment and learning, assess their own performance

In conclusion, each type of assessment has the advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, the teacher should use different kind of assessments to get the valuable and valid information about their students’ performance. According to Carr & Ritchie (1991), “no method of assessment is totally adequate.” The norm-referenced assessment can help the teachers to get the framework of their students’ performance. In addition, students can compare their performance with other students. The criteria-referenced assessment can give information about each students’ performance through meaningful information. The students can use that information to assess their performance and improve their competences. The goal-based assessment supports the teacher as the facilitator to help the students to construct their own learning and assessment. Therefore, the students can be motivated to improve their own learning progress. Students’ participation on their own learning process will help them to have meaningful learning experience. Therefore, teachers’ role to vary the type of assessment is very important to improve the quality of teaching and learning process.


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