Assessment and Learning: State of the field review

Authors: Jo-Anne Baird, Therese N. Hopfenbeck, Paul Newton, Gordon Stobart & Anna Steen-Utheim

The Norwegian Knowledge Centre for Education has published a webpage on this research, where you can download the report.

Why this review was conducted

Assessment has come to be a very powerful force because of its natural alliance with neoliberal, new public management views on measuring quality. However, the data have taken on a life of their own at times, with the content and processes of learning receiving less attention. The purpose of this review was to produce an overview of research articles that link learning and assessment, to investigate the state of the field and to reignite attention in this important area.

Who is this report for?

The audience for this report is researchers who are interested in the fields of assessment and learning, assessment for learning and international tests.

What is new?

  1. Distinct fields on assessment policy, psychometrics, authentic assessment, assessment for learning and learning theory are drawn together.
  2. A classification of authors’ alignments with learning theories in the assessment for learning literature.
  3. A critique of the educational contribution of psychometrics.
  4. A summary of the challenging critiques on the modern consensus on the definition of validity, which highlight some of the most interesting issues at the interface between assessment and learning in the 21st century.
  5. A catalogue of Norwegian doctoral work conducted in the field of assessment over the past two decades.

What are the conclusions?

  1. The current dominant learning theory in the field of assessment and psychometrics is a cognitive constructivist paradigm.  Sociocultural approaches remain challenging to fit within an assessment framework.
  2. Although the impact of assessment for learning upon learning outcomes has been over-claimed, recent research indicates that it does have an educationally significant impact upon teaching and learning.
  3. Knowledge of learning should have gained more from the application of psychometrics to assessment data.  A more integrated approach to assessment and learning is required if this field is to advance our understanding.
  4. International testing is a highly contested field that is assuming greater importance. A close connection with the meaning of the international test scores, in terms of learning outcomes is sometimes lacking in this area.
  5. Traditional definitions of validity are being challenged by postmodern approaches.

How were these conclusions reached?

We used a narrative review method, though we supported this with systematic searches on assessment for learning and international tests.

Advisory Group for this work

Professors David Andrich, Mary James & Dylan Wiliam

This research was sponsored by the Norwegian Knowledge Centre for Education and its webpage on this research is here.