Teacher assessment versus exams
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Teacher Assessment versus Exams. Peter Tymms CEM, Durham University. www.cemcentre.org. Overview. The Issue The importance of LAs, Schools and teachers Fairness and bias Coverage and sampling Teacher assessment Exams and tests Predictive validity Conclusions. The Issue.

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Teacher assessment versus exams

Teacher Assessment versus Exams

Peter Tymms

CEM, Durham University




  • The Issue

  • The importance of LAs, Schools and teachers

  • Fairness and bias

  • Coverage and sampling

  • Teacher assessment

  • Exams and tests

  • Predictive validity

  • Conclusions

The issue

The Issue

  • Teacher assessment is unfair because it is unreliable and biased.

  • Exams are simply snapshots and are unrepresentative of the work that has really be done

Which matters most

Which matters most?

  • LA

  • School

  • Teacher

  • Pupil

Newcastle commission data sources

Newcastle Commission: Data Sources

  • Several national datasets including


    • KS1, KS2, KS3 & GCSE

  • Looked a value-added using 3 level multilevel models

Example using ks2 english

Example using KS2 English

Willms diagram

Willms’ Diagram

Teacher assessment versus exams

The Teacher Effect

Which matters most1

Which matters most?

  • LA

  • School 

  • Teacher 

  • Pupil     



Pupils vary enormously

Teachers have the greatest impact

Schools are relevant

Authorities hardly vary at all

Proximate variables dominate



  • The best teachers will be best at judging their students

What is bias

What is bias?

  • Bias appears in a test when part of an assessment is harder for a particular group.

  • Or when an assessor systematically downgrades a group or an individual for construct irrelevant reasons

Example of item bias

Example of item bias



Examples of teacher bias

Examples of teacher bias

  • Annecdote

  • By Sex (eg baseline & page 17 Harlen)

  • By ability – judgement anchored by experience

  • By Ethnicity – assault experiments

  • By social class

  • By behaviour (origin of ability testing. Binet)

  • By Age – (EPICure study)

  • By incident – eg spilling a glass of water.

  • The halo (or horns) effect (e.g. P scales)

P scales in 2004

P Scales in 2004

Teacher reliability

Teacher reliability

  • How should reliability be assessed

    • By looking at the internal consistency of judgements?

    • By looking at the link to external assessments?

    • By comparing over time?

    • By comparing one teacher with others?

  • Facets model within Rasch measurement

Trusting teachers judgement harlen 2005

Trusting teachers’ judgementHarlen 2005

“The findings of the review by no means constitute a ringing endorsement of teachers’ assessment; there was evidence of low reliability and bias in teachers’ judgements”

5 14 portfolios single level tests

5-14, Portfolios & single level tests

  • 5-14 assessments

  • What about portfolios?

    • inter-rater very low for maths and writing

  • English teacher levels in SATs

    • early 1990s “considerable error”

    • later quite common to find teacher = test results

    • single level tests compromised by teacher judgement

Is it ok for teachers to assess their own pupils for high stakes exams

Is it OK for teachers to assess their own pupils for High Stakes exams?

  • How does the power to grade affect relationships?

  • Would you give McEnroy a B?

Exam test reliability

Exam/test reliability

  • Typically around 0.9 but …

  • Distinguish the assessment of

    • Convergent questions

    • Divergent questions

Exam test bias

Exam/test bias

  • Pre-tests are often used to address issues of bias

  • But we put much reliance on judgment.

  • England’s major exams are largely not pre-tested.

Are exams inappropriate snapshots

Are Exams inappropriate snapshots?

  • Issue 1: Questions must be representative samples of the course under exam conditions.

  • Issue 2: Constraint on the nature of the assessment

    • Multi-method Multi-trait challenge

  • Issue 3: Impact of stress on performance

    • Positive & Negative (links to introversion)

Introvert and extrovert

Introvert and Extrovert



We need to match format to content

We need to match format to content

  • Some things must be assessed by judgement:

    • Social interactions

    • Quality of research

    • Poetry

    • Art

  • Some things are best assessed left to tests

    • Mental arithmetic

    • Spelling

    • Phonological awareness

    • Diagnostic assessments (e.g. INCAS)

  • Even so perhaps there is a final arbiter

Predictive validity

Predictive validity

Developed ability test (MidYIS/IQ/etc)

Attainment test (Std Grade/Highers)

Teacher Grade

Later success – degree, salary etc

We need the evidence but

We need the evidence but ..

  • Prediction is often poor

    • Two major reasons

Prediction of educational achievement

Prediction of Educational Achievement

Correlation 0 7

Correlation = 0.7

Select top 15

Select top 15%

Correlation 0 39

Correlation = 0.39

Cream top 3 r 0 19

Cream top 3%; r=0.19

So poor prediction because of

So, poor prediction because of

  • Prior selection

  • Variable outcome measures

Conclusion judgements or tests

Conclusion: Judgements or tests?

  • Should we do both? (Profiles)

    • But, how do we ensure that judgements and tests are independent?

    • How can judgements be kept free from bias?

  • Virtually impossible in high stakes tests

  • Essential for formative work

Teacher assessment versus exams

No easy solutions

Thank you



  • Campbell, D. T., & Fiske, D. W. (1959). Convergent and Discriminant Validation by the Multitrait-Multimethod Matrix. Psychological Bulletin, 56, 81-105.

  • Cooper, B. (1998). Using Bernstein and Bourdieu to understand children's difficulties with "realistic" mathematics testing: an exploratory study. Qualitative Studies in Education, II(4), 511-532.

  • Eysenck, H. J. (2006) The Biollogical Basis of Personaility.Transaction publishers

  • Harlen, W. (2005). Trusting teachers' judgement: research evidence of reliability and validity of teachers' assessment used for summative purposes. Research Papers in Education, 20(3), 245-270.

  • Johnson, S., Hennessy, E., Smith, R., Trikic, R., Wolke, D., & Marlow, N. (2009). The EPICure Study: Academic attainment and special educational needs in extremely preterm children at 11 years. London: Nottingham/London/Warwick.

  • Koretz, D., Stecher, B. M., Klein, S. P. & McCaffrey, D. (1994) The Vermont Portfolio Assessment

  • Program: findings and implications, Educational Measurement: Issues & Practice, 13, 5–16.

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  • Tymms, P., Merrell, C., & Jones, P. (2004). Using baseline assessment data to make international comparisons. British Educational Research Journal, 30(5), 673-689.

  • Willms, J. D. (1987). Differences Between Scottish Educational Authorities in their Examinations Attainment. Oxford Review of Education, 13(2), 211-232.

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