Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

The Use of Rasch Competency Bands for Reporting Criterion-Referenced Feedback and Curriculum-Standards Attainment

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

The Use of Rasch Competency Bands for Reporting Criterion-Referenced Feedback and Curriculum-Standards Attainment

Article excerpt


There is a growing realisation worldwide of the importance of learner content-focused feedback as opposed to only providing norm-referenced feedback (Bennett, Tognolini & Pickering, 2012). Norm-referenced feedback is based on numbers, means achieved as well as a comparison of a learner or groups of learners to others in the cohort(s). But with standards-referenced feedback, also known as criterion-referenced feedback, the spotlight is on informing learners about what they know and how they can increase their knowledge and skills (Bennet et al., 2012, Long, Dunne & Mokoena, 2014). Standards-referenced feedback is crucial for meeting curriculum requirements as the criteria are based on learning standards set in curriculum documents (Great Schools Partnership, 2014). The alignment of assessments to curriculum-standards is linked to this type of feedback. Therefore, assessments would be designed to provide diagnostic information and feedback in order to inform teaching and learning. This article specifically investigates methods using external and internal monitoring assessments for deriving standards-referenced feedback, which serves the purpose of developing accountability and a measure for comparability as well as presenting a method for deriving criterion-referenced feedback. The argument is made that by offering feedback that is content specific and linked to curriculum-standards, monitoring assessments, which comprise systemic evaluations, large scale studies and standardised tests in the schooling system, can serve the additional purpose of enhancing teaching and learning. Content-specific feedback is empowering to teachers and learners and when monitoring assessments are utilised, all stakeholders, including the participants, should benefit from the testing system (Long et al., 2014).

Large scale assessments for norm and criterion-referenced feedback

Systemic and standardised tests are generally not utilised for diagnostic purposes, though such applications could contribute to an impact on the system they evaluate (Khosa, 2013). The main goal of most systemic testing systems is to serve as indicators of performance levels, mainly for norm-referenced comparison and for quality assurance in education (Jiao et al., 2011; Osman et al., 2008). Designing criterion-referenced tests can be time- and resource-intensive but has advantages that benefit those being tested and the systems in the long-term (Stone, Beltyukova & Fox, 2008). Such advantages include monitoring a system but also improving its functioning by identifying attained curriculum standards and pinpointing the next achievable levels. This approach taps into the notion of competency as moving along a continuum (Griffin, Gillis & Calvitto, 2007). Criterion-referenced results give feedback in terms of what skills and knowledge a person has gained, whereas norm-referenced feedback focuses on comparing a person to others in terms of achievement. The study described in this article has utilised criterion-referenced and norm-referenced feedback approaches, using the monitoring assessments to provide learners, teachers, parents, principals and funders with criterion-referenced and norm-referenced feedback. Norm-referenced feedback gave schools learner-level insight into where their school's achievement was located in relation to other schools. Criterion-referenced feedback gave insights into school-level proficiency levels and curriculum standards achieved by learners, in addition to offering subsequent target levels for teachers. During interactive workshops, teachers and subject specialists discussed ways in which the results could be used in developing/initiating interventions and thus enhancing classroom practice.

Learner-level feedback as an ethical application of large scale assessment

Large-scale assessments, such as standardised testing and systemic evaluations, are time consuming and expensive (Khosa, 2013; Popham, 1987). …

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