Not like Moses

One of the joys of trying to catch up with others who have been working in the field of assessment for much longer than me is finding books and articles that were written some time ago but which still seem pertinent today. I’d definitely put the following book into this category (and more thoughts from it will follow):

Gipps, C. and Murphy, P. (1994) A fair test? Assessment, achievement and equity. Buckingham: Open University Press.

For now, I’d like to highlight a particularly memorable quote from Gipps and Murphy, originally from the Times Educational Supplement back in November 1988,expressing sceptism about the ‘Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education’ in the USA. As a former Assistant Secretary of Education put it:

If all the maxims are followed I have no doubt the overall quotient of goodness and virtue should be raised. Like Moses, the test makers have laid down ten commandments they hope everyone will obey. This doesn’t work very well in religion – adultery continues.

So I’d like to emphasise that my ‘top tips’ in the previous post are not commandments! – apart perhaps from my final tip (monitoring the questions when in use) which I think ought to be made compulsory.

In general though, although the ‘top tips’ have worked well for me, and I hope that these are ideas that others might find useful, perhaps it is more important that question authors take responsibility for the quality of their own work, rather than mindlessly following ‘rules’ written by others. This wish reflects most of my practice, in writing e-assessment questions and in everything else so, for example, I far prefer helping people to write questions in workshops (when they are writing questions ‘for real’) than providing rules for them to follow. Sadly, I think a wish to improve the quality of our e-assessment may be leading to a more dictatorial approach – I’m not convinced it will work.

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