In this chapter you will learn to:
Many forms of assessment have predetermined right and wrong answers. Familiar examples are multiple-choice questions and matching activities; there are also mathematics exercises or short-answer tasks for which there is no room for judgement. When a teacher is marking these forms of assessment, there can be no doubt about whether a student has answered correctly or incorrectly. Other kinds of assessment, such as essays and art folios, require different assessment methods. For these, there is no predetermined answer and teachers must use their professional judgement to assess the quality of the work. These assessments are sometimes dismissed as subjective because they rely on the teacher's judgement, but there are ways for this kind of assessment to be formalised and codified to increase confidence in the subjective judgement. This chapter explains the process via which this can be achieved.
The terms ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ in the context of assessment refer to the manner in which student work is judged and how records of the assessment are created and interpreted. Assessments are referred to as ‘objective’ if they can be routinely marked as correct or incorrect, regardless of who makes the judgement. This is generally applied to multiple-choice questions, or questions for which there is only one correct answer. Subjective assessments involve judgement in order to distinguish between responses of different quality. In general, they require an assessment in which the teacher weighs up or judges the value or quality of a performance or an answer and differentiates between higher- and lower-quality student work. This process of weighing up the quality of a performance is used in this chapter to develop a series of criteria that will help teachers improve these subjective judgements.
In fact, there are no purely objective assessments. All assessments can be classified as qualitatively subjective – it is a matter of where the judgement takes place in the process of planning, implementing, coding and scoring assessments.