Assessment in Higher Education: Issues of Access, Quality, Student Development, and Public Policy

By Samuel J. Messick | Go to book overview

1
THE CHANGING FACE OF HIGHER EDUCATION
ASSESSMENT

Samuel Messick Educational Testing Service

For most of this century, the face of higher education assessment has displayed a singular countenance. Admissions testing was its salient feature because student selection was the primary function that assessment served. However, as we enter the 21st century, the face of higher education assessment is progressively changing. The lines of character associated with validity and equity will be deepened, but many of the age spots and wrinkles will be rejuvenated by technology. The intent of this change is not merely cosmetic but, rather, regenerative.

We are not simply contemplating a technological face-lift to better serve the old function of selection but, instead, the reconstruction of a genuinely new face to serve new and expanded functions and purposes. For years the main function of assessment in the academy was selection to maximize the level of talent as an outcome of higher education. Then around mid-century there began a growing concern for selection to broaden the range of talent, which brought with it a concomitant concern for cultural and group diversity. Now the twin goals of high levels and broad ranges of talent are coming to be addressed more and more not only through selection but also through student growth and development, which greatly expands the role of assessment in higher education. Admissions testing becomes less salient as more emphasis is placed on assessment for instructional guidance and placement, for career guidance and decision making, for the improvement of instruction and student performance, for the certification of learning and competence, and for the evaluation of program quality.

The expanded purposes of higher education assessment constitute the main topics of this volume, but they are addressed not just in functional terms but also in terms of a number of cross-cutting issues that entail competing social values

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