Myths of assessment

Ross Woods, 29 Nov. 04. with thanks to Russell Docking


Myth Truth
"Excellent teaching makes assessment superfluous. Students will be okay if you teach really well. Students learn because they love learning." People still need assessing because that is how you find out what they've learnt, if anything.
You can't know whether your teaching is excellent without assessment. You could find out if it is popular, but not whether it is effective.
"Practical performance can be assessed through academic performance. Written assessments are more accurate than observation of performance. Assessment on campus is more credible than assessment in a workplace." This is a variation of assessing bike riding by writing essays on bike riding. A bike-riding session would be more effective.
"A whole set of outcomes can be inferred from a small sample of assessed outcomes." The truth is that each outcome must be assessed.
If you no longer need to sample, you no longer need to keep secret what you'll assess.
"Marks and percentages can represent achievement. A set percentage can be used to determine a pass." Marks and percentages are arbitrary conventions. You have to ask, how were they derived?
"Errors in assessment can be fixed by statistically manipulating marks." They are still errors.
"Performance should map to a normal bell-shaped curve." A normal distribution curve indicates randomness, not the application of a standard.
"Achievement requires class work. If you didn't do it in my class, you can't really know it." But people could learn it in other ways.