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Nature of Criterion-Referenced Tests
Concept of criterion-referenced tests though of recent origin has grown at exponential rate. Since, many researchers are working independently on CRTs; we find differing terminology in this field reflecting different perceptive. Criterion-referenced tests relate performance to criterion behaviors.
One type of information tells us where a student stands compared to other students. In other words, certain kinds of test data help us determine a student’s “place” or “rank”. This is accomplished by comparing the student’s performance to a norm or average of performance by other, similar students. A test that yields this kind of information is called norm-referenced tests (NRTs).
A second type of information provided by tests tells us about a student’s level of proficiency in or mastery of some skill or set of skills. This is accomplished by comparing a student’s performance to a standard of mastery called a criterion. A test that yields this kind of information is called criterion-referenced tests (CRTs) because the information it conveys refers to a comparison with a criterion or absolute standard. Such information helps us decide whether a student needs more or less work on some skill or set of skills. It says nothing about the student’s place or rank compared to other students and hence, it too is useful only for certain types of decisions.
Comparison of student’s performance with reference to their peers, class or grade has been well known to the class teachers.
This type of norm-referenced evaluation has been in vogue ever since the examinations are institutionalized. Comparison of a student’s performance with the performance of others has all along been considered a sacred service by public in general and teachers in particular. To declare a student as deviant from the norm group has been accepted as a legacy of the past.
There has been growing concern about the improvement of student’s learning and as such the proper diagnosis of student’s weaknesses and inadequacies in instructional strategies are now considered of great relevance. This has led to the realization of the need for formulating specific learning outcomes that should act as criteria of acceptable standard of performance. The emphasis, therefore, remains on instruction-based evaluation which, in tom, dovetails to the pre-determined criteria formulated as an expected standard of performance.
Focus of criterion-referenced testing is on promoting mastery learning. As such the technique of item analysis used in criterion referenced tests carries different interpretation when compared to norm-referenced tests.
The traditional method of measuring student’s achievement is in terms of a group, a class, a school or a state which is taken as a referent for interpreting student’s scores and for passing judgments. Thus, the typical performance or the norm of a group is used as the basis for judging individual student’s learning. Such a measurement which involves interpretation of student’s scores in terms of a group is called norm-referenced testing (N.R.T.). We can also use a predetermined criterion for the reference of an individual’s performance. Such a measurement in which a specific criterion is used as referent for measuring student’s performance is called Criterion Referenced Testing (C.R.T.)
History of Criterion-Referenced Tests
Criterion-referenced test entered in the vocabulary of the measurement specialist in 1960s. However, it was Thorndike (1961) who probably first made reference of the basic distinction between the two types of evaluation procedures, but he did not use the norm referenced and criterion-referenced in his distinction.
Definition of Criterion-Referenced Test
- Terms as objectives, competencies and skills are interchangeably used.
- Competencies are well defined.
- iii. When more than one competency measured, competency wise performance is reported.
- A minimum standard of performance in respect to each competency is set, generally in terms of percentage scores.
- The term criterion in the CRTs does not refer to a standard or cut-off score. It refers to a domain of content or behavior to which the test scores are referenced. It may be pointed out that the number of competencies measured by the CRTs, the number of items measuring each competency and the minimum standard set for the test vary from one test to another. However, if one gets a score equal to, or above, the set standard he is supposed to be a master, otherwise he is a nonmaster.
An individual when is compared with some established standard or criterion is known as criterion referenced. An individual score is not compared with other examinee. We want to know what the individual can do, not how he stands in comparison to his group. The CRTs score does not refer to a criterion in the sense of a normative standard but it refers to a specific task to which a student must be capable of performing before he achieves one of the established performance “Criterion of a good criterion is that it depicts behavioral objective which is so precisely defined that it lends to the some interpretation.” (Singh, 1983)The word “Criterion” in criterion-referenced tests denotes:
* An instructional objective.
* An expected post-instructional learning out come.
* An intended level of a student’s performance.
* An acceptable level of learner’s achievement.
* A desired standard of product of performance.