Professional development in assessment

Program highlights: Keynote speakers

Gavin Brown

Keynote Abstract: Reconsidering assessment for learning: Insights from human factors and social conditions

The key characteristic of Assessment for Learning (AfL) is to prioritise assessment as a pedagogical process that takes place in the interaction between and among teachers and students. Read more...

Cees van der Vleuten

Keynote Abstract: Towards a future or programmatic assessment

In the last 50 years the field of assessment of professional competence has seen remarkable progress. Developments in assessment technology have taken place across all areas of professional competence, ranging from cognitive to behavioural and emotional aspects of competency. Read more...

Reconsidering assessment for learning: Insights from human factors and social conditions

Gavin Brown, University of Auckland

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The key characteristic of Assessment for Learning (AfL) is to prioritise assessment as a pedagogical process that takes place in the interaction between and among teachers and students. Assessment for learning involves collecting evidence about learning sufficiently early in the teaching and learning cycle that both teaching and learning can change in ways that lead to greater progress towards intended learning goals. If AfL is purely a pedagogical process, there are few problems if information quality is not robust, since there are multiple opportunities to recover from false understanding of student learning needs.

However, when the stakes are higher with consequences for teachers and learners, it is necessary to consider more formal processes that are open to validation. Research into teacher and student conceptions of assessment has shown relatively uniform endorsement of improvement-oriented purposes of assessment. However, social conditions, including policies and cultural factors, suggest that the evaluative role of assessment is not universally inappropriate. Inter- and intra-personal pressures can and do invalidate interactive methods of data collection. Empirical evidence shows that a wide variety of AfL practices make only a moderate contribution to learning gains. As pedagogical processes, AfL may be appropriate, but as an assessment policy it is alarmingly inadequate.

An alternative ‘AfL 2.0’ approach would place emphasis on the importance of the teacher as pedagogical expert, and on the positive impact of the teacher in improving outcomes for students via feedback and feed-forward. Additionally, formative and diagnostic tools are needed to support high-quality, judgements of student learning, along with formal inter-teacher and inter-school moderation processes. Most importantly, policy consequences for assessment results need to be reduced so that teachers and schools can safely discover who is not achieving without fear of humiliation, scorn, or punishment.

Gavin Brown: Short bio.

Dr Gavin Brown is an "Adult Third-Culture Kid" who was born in Scotland, lived in Canada from age 1 to 10, and spent 10 years in Western Europe between ages 10 and 21. After 7 years in Montreal, he moved to New Zealand in 1983 where he worked as a high school English and ESOL teacher, a test development researcher and research manager, and as a senior lecturer of research methodology at The University of Auckland. He spent nearly 3 years as an Associate Professor at the Institute of Education.

Dr Brown's research investigates the relationship of assessment qualities (e.g., validity, accuracy, utility, and propriety) and purposes (most importantly, improvement and accountability) on student and teacher responses to assessment including learning outcomes across a variety of cultural and social contexts. Gavin’s research brings the concerns and skills of psychometrics to bear on the social psychological factors of assessment. His research has shown that teacher and student beliefs are (1) contingent on assessment quality, (2) consistent with cultural values and priorities, and (3) play a significant part in explaining adaptive and maladaptive outcomes. Further, his research has shown that improvement is best achieved through high-quality assessment practices and systems that provide rich feedback to both test-users and test-takers and that this outcome is contingent on ensuring low-stakes consequences are attached to assessments.

Dr Brown is the author of more than 90 books, chapters, and refereed conference papers. of assessment. He is a co-author of two standardised educational testing systems published in New Zealand (i.e. asTTle and ESA:IS). He presents regularly at AERA, EARLI, and ITC conferences and is a member of the international editorial board of Teaching and Teacher Education and Assessment in Education. His research inventories on conceptions of assessment have been used in many countries and translated into ten languages.