Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Normative v.s Criterion

For today’s blog I wanted to look at and compare the pros and the cons between normative testing and criterion based testing. While both these concepts have their positives and negatives very often especially when discussing types of assessment these two concepts are discussed. First and foremost let’s define the two. Criterion referenced is based on testing an objective standard or achievement level. Students are required to demonstrate a specific ability at a particular level. Normative testing differs because it is based on a standard curve of a specific population. People are compared to the curve rather then a benchmark you would see from a criterion test.

It is important from an educator perspective to understand these types of test. First we will look at normative testing. Normative testing provides a test that can be adjusted. It takes into consideration if a test it too hard or easy by adjusting it to the curve. By doing this you as an educator can ensure that the test is fair and it is addressing the information you wanted to assess. Part of the problems identified with this type of testing is that it promotes tracking, lacks the ability to understand the quality of learning or learning outcomes for individual students do to the emphasis on comparison against the curve, and most common teachers end up teaching to the test.

While normative testing certainly has its advantages and disadvantages as does criterion testing. Part of the problem with criterion testing is its whole idea of setting a benchmark grade or standard. With this type of testing students who have a low understanding of the information may be lost because of a class curve. Student’s grades become inflated and in turn may hide the fact a student is struggling. When using this type of testing educators must be extremely careful when “curving” grades. Just because students get high marks does not mean they understand the information.

Part of the positives of this testing style include the overall emphasis on testing knowledge and skills but not rank, examining specific curriculums, and it can be used set educational goals. As you can see both these testing methods have there positives and negatives. What I wanted to provide from today’s blog is an overview of these two styles of assessment as well as some of the educational downfalls and benefits when trying to decide how to best assess your students.

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