Activity 2

Norm and Criterion Referenced Assessment

Norm-referenced assessment compares an individual pupil's performance with the performances of other pupils. Giving one pupil a grade or mark doesn't help us to diagnose specific learning difficulties but does tell us about levels of performance in relation to others in the same class and year group.

Criterion-referenced assessment aims to show how far a pupil has met pre-specified learning objectives. For example, a ‘driving test' would be a form of criterion-referenced assessment because the standards that have to be met are clearly defined in advance of the task. Similarly, in the classroom, teachers sometimes identify the criteria for success in a subject. Then they use those criteria to evaluate pupils' progress. In this sense, criterion-referenced assessment is an important part of formative assessment.

REFLECT: Consider some of the norm and criterion referenced assessment practices in your school. Under what particular circumstances is each assessment approach most useful?

WRITE: Look at the school report forms that follow. The first dates from an English grammar school in the late 1950s. The second was given to a pupil in a secondary school in England in 2006. How have the assessment approaches changed?

Make a list of the key differences between the two reports, employing the technical terms which have been used in the module so far. Then, if you still have a copy of one of your own reports when you were at school, compare it with the kind of reports which are written for pupils nowadays. You might make the comparison with a report you have written yourself.

(Allow 40 minutes)