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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

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)

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 Stakes exams?

  • Typically around 0.9 but …

  • Distinguish the assessment of

    • Convergent questions

    • Divergent questions

Exam test bias
Exam/test bias Stakes exams?

  • 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? Stakes exams?

  • 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 Stakes exams? and Extrovert



We need to match format to content
We need to match format to content Stakes exams?

  • 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 Stakes exams?

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 .. Stakes exams?

  • Prediction is often poor

    • Two major reasons

Correlation 0 7
Correlation = 0.7 Stakes exams?

Select top 15
Select top 15% Stakes exams?

Correlation 0 39
Correlation = 0.39 Stakes exams?

Cream top 3 r 0 19
Cream top 3%; r=0.19 Stakes exams?

So poor prediction because of
So, poor prediction because of Stakes exams?

  • Prior selection

  • Variable outcome measures

Conclusion judgements or tests
Conclusion: Judgements or tests? Stakes exams?

  • 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

No easy solutions Stakes exams?

Thank you

References Stakes exams?

  • 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.

  • Tymms, P. (1997). Value-added Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2. London: School Curriculum and Assessment Authority.

  • Tymms, P., Jones, P., Albone, S., & Henderson, B. (2009). The first seven years at school. Educational Assessment and Evaluation Accountability, 21, 67-80.

  • Tymms, P., Merrell, C., Heron, T., Jones, P., Albone, S., & Henderson, B. (2008). The importance of districts. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 19(3), 261-274.

  • 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.