The defining qualities of good assessment

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Quality Conversations Vol. 25

July, 2002, 794 pages
Published by
Tony Herrington
0 908557 54 X

In this paper we challenge the way that quality is defined in higher education and ask what characterizes quality in the assessment of student learning. In order to do this we are obliged to untangle some of the aims of assessment within universities. There are a number of stakeholders involved with assessment of learning and we argue that they do not always agree on what constitutes good assessment practice. The word ‘quality’ is often used as a talisman to ward off competing views about assessment of learning. In this paper we stress the need to use the term in one of its original meanings – excellence. Although this definition is often criticised because of its apparent vagueness, we argue that by using it we are forced to seek consensus on what constitutes excellence. In the absence of consensus we are forced to rely on qualified judges. In the matter of assessment in higher education we have to ask ourselves ‘who are the best judges of a student’s learning’. We argue that teachers and students are the best judges of effective learning but that external quality audits can undermine their judgement. Sweden is moving closer to a British model of quality assurance and the culture of compliance that this engenders can impede the use of collaborative, continuous, formative and innovative ways of assessing learning.

Keywords:learning, assessment, quality

The defining qualities of good assessment

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Christie, M. & Stehlik, T.