Glossary

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The following Glossary provides definitions of words and acronyms related to online assessment.
 
Ability Assessment
Assessment designed to find out the level of developed potential at the time of testing in particular aspects of reasoning.
 
AEN
Additional Educational Needs
 
Affect
Attitudes and behaviour that will influence children’s progress at school and their attainment.
 
ALS
Additional Literacy Support
 
Aptitude Assessment
Assessment designed to find out the potential to acquire or develop specific skills, such as those approaches used in careers guidance.
 
Assessment
In educational terms, a systematic and controlled process of determining what children know, understand and can do.
 
Attainment Assessment
Assessment designed to measure the level of knowledge or skills already acquired through learning.  Traditionally, the content tended to be linked to the recall of facts but nowadays measurement is focussed more on broader educational targets and/or on the application of understanding of knowledge and skills.
 
Assessment for Learning
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) defines Assessment for Learning, or formative assessment, as “the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go and how best to get there.”
 
Baseline Assessment
A standardised test, battery of tests, or observational procedure designed to establish the attainment level of children at a significant point, particularly on entry to infant schools at 5 and transfer to secondary schools at 11.  Their performance is regarded as a ‘baseline’ from which their subsequent performance may be predicted, monitored and any relevant improvement or deterioration judged.
 
Battery
A test battery is a collection of assessments assembled for a specific purpose, all of them standardised on the same population.  It provides a wider and more detailed coverage of abilities or skills than can be achieved by a single assessment.  The information may be used to give a profile or performance or combined as a simple score.
 
CA
Chronological age
 
CAL
Computer Assisted Learning
 
CHI
Children of Higher Intelligence
 
Chronological Age
The actual age of a child expressed in years and months, e.g. 9:7.  Standardised scores take account of a child’s chronological age to relate his or her performance of children of that age.  Compare with a child’s “reading age” for example, which is the average chronological age of child comparable to his or her reading ability?
 
Cognition
The whole set of mental abilities that are used by a child for learning.
 
Correlation
The extent to which two quantities – e.g. test scores – are connected in individuals, i.e. the tendency for children who are good at one thing to be good at another, and vice-versa.  For instance, verbal and non-verbal reasoning scores are strongly correlated in children.  As are height and weight.  Correlation is very important in psychology and in testing because if scores correlate well, it suggests that there is something in the tests that taps into similar parts of the mind.
There are many ways of approaching correlation in statistics, and many indicators of it.  Most use a scale of –1 to +1, the former indicating perfect disagreement, the latter perfect agreement, with all practical examples falling somewhere between.  A value of zero means that the quantities in question are not connected at all.  This happens surprisingly rarely.
 
Criterion-Referenced Assessment
A criterion-referenced assessment measures what a child can do against a specific set of objectives or skills.  Assessing whether a skill has been mastered will provide useful diagnostic information. See also Norm-Referenced Assessment.
 
Developed Intelligence
The whole mental apparatus of a child, including that developed by experience and exposure to learning.
 
Diagnostic Assessment
A diagnostic assessment identifies a pupil’s underlying strengths and needs in a particular area.  Such an assessment may be able to explain why a child is experiencing a specific learning difficulty and can help teachers to evaluate the severity of the problem.  This information will prove to be invaluable when devising future teaching programmes.
 
DLS
Desirable Learning Outcomes.
 
EAL
English as an Additional Language
 
EBD
Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties.
 
Fluid Intelligence
“On-the-spot” reasoning ability, not tied to age or experience, but to biology.
 
Formative Assessment
An ongoing assessment which is used to highlight a particular child’s strengths, needs and potential.  Information gained from formative assessment can be used when discussing and devising the next steps for that child’s development.  A criterion-referenced assessment is often used for formative assessment. See also Summative Assessment.
 
HI
Hearing-Impaired.
 
IEP
Individual Education Plan.
 
Ipsative Assessment
In education terms this means assessment that is referenced to pupils’ former performances, analogous to an athlete’s “personal best” performance.
 
LSU
Learning Support Unit.
 
Mean
A typical value from a score distribution.  The colloquially-named average is the most commonly encountered, known technically as the (arithmetic) mean.  Standard-aged scores are scaled so that an average child at each age will get a score of 100.
 
Metacognition
Learning about learning.  One of the keys of the modern curriculum is getting children to understand how they learn, so that they can do so better and independently.
 
Miscue Analysis
An ongoing assessment which is used to highlight a particular child’s strengths, needs and potential.  Information gained from formative assessment can be used when discussing and devising the next steps for that child’s development.  A criterion-referenced assessment is often used for formative assessment. See also Summative Assessment
 
Multiple-Choice item
A test or question in which respondents have to choose one from four or five possible responses to a question posed in the “stem” at the outset.  Only one is right, and the others, the distracters, are unequivocally wrong.
 
National Tests
The name given by the DfEE and QCA to the statutory tests in the Core and Foundation subjects of the National Curriculum, taken by all children in Local Authority schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at the end of Key Stage 1 to 3 (ages 7, 11 and 14 in England and Wales).  They are sometimes referred to as ‘SATs’ (Standard Assessment Tasks), the original equivalent tests in the early years of the National Curriculum.
 
Non-Verbal Reasoning
Recognising patterns and relationships between abstract shapes and geometrical figures, and the ability to reproduce and extend them.
 
Normal (Gaussian) Distribution
A model of an ideal test score distributions approximate.  It is symmetrical and bell-shaped, with most scores clustered around the mean, with diminishing frequencies of scores further away from the mean in either direction.
Unfortunately named since it suggests that any score distributions that don’t conform to the model are “abnormal” whereas they are probably not!
 
Norm-Referenced Assessment
This is a method of assessment whereby pupils obtain standardised scores that allow their individual performance to be compared with that of their age-related peers.  These scores are provided in norm tables, which take age into account.  Information gained from norm-referenced assessment is particularly useful for comparing the performance of individuals with the national average; this allows standards to be monitored on a national and year group basis.
 
Norms (Age)
Standardisation of a test involved the relating of performance in the test to the chronological age of the respondent.  Average performance for children of each age can be calculated, and used to judge the quality of performances in the future of children of different ages.  So the same raw score will in general correspond to different standardised scores in children of different ages.
 
Objective Assessment
An assessment whose materials and their presentation, instructions and precise answers have been agreed and which be objectively and reliably marked using a scoring key or an automated scoring system.
 
Online Assessment
Assessment by computer offers faster, more accurate results than traditional paper and pencil menthods. Pupils also find that they are less intimidated by a test taken on-screen.
 
Parallel Forms
Alternative assessment forms which differ in content but are at the same level of difficulty and provide equivalent standardised scores.
 
Percentile
This type of score indicates the percentage of pupils in an age group who have obtained scores below a particular score.  For example, a pupil with a percentile rank of 70 has a score which was as good as or better than 70 per cent of the normative sample for his or her age group.  Note that a pupil’s percentile on an assessment should not be confused with the term ‘percentage, which indicates the proportion of assessment items answered correctly.
 
PMLD
Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties
 
Profile
A profile based on the assessment results, which provides a clear visual check on each pupil’s performance in an assessment or series/battery of assessment.  Performance in successive testings can be compared and skills can be contrasted with abilities.
 
Quantitative Reasoning
Recognising patterns and relationships between numbers and numerical information, and the ability to reproduce and extend them.
 
Rank
The position of a child in the ordering of a group according to test score.  In a class of twenty-six pupils, for instance, they can be ranked from one to twenty-six on the basis of a test score.
 
Raw Score
A score on an assessment which is expressed simply as the total number of the marks obtained on that test.
 
Reading Age
This tells you the current level of a child’s performance in a particular area of reading such as comprehension or word recognition skills.  For example, a nine-year old child with a reading age of nine is assumed to be performing at the national average for his or her age.  Another child aged nine years with a reading age of 10, is assumed to be developmentally 12 months ahead of his or her peers in reading.
 
Reliability
A test’s reliability concerns the consistency with which it measures whatever it is supposed to be measuring.  A reliable assessment is dependable and will yield similar results each time it is used.  Perfect reliability is represented by a reliability coefficient of 1.0, but in practice this is never achieved although figures upwards of about 0.85 are commonly obtained.
 
SEN
Special Educational Need.
 
Standard Age Score or Standard Score
A standardised score scale in which the mean score for each age group on an assessment is set at 100 and the standard deviation at 15.
 
Standard Deviation
A way of expressing how much a normally-distributed sample of scores is spread out.  Nearly all of any sample scores are contained in the range Mean ± 3 Standard Deviations.
 
Standard Error of Measurement (SEM)
The estimate of the error associated with pupils' obtained scores when compared with their hypothetical true score.  The SEM, which varies from test to test, should be given in the test manual.  The band of scores in which we can be fairly certain the true score lies can be calculated from this figure.  For example, we can be 95 per cent certain that a pupil’s true score lies in the range ‘obtained score ± 2 SEM’ and 99 per cent certain that it lies in the range ‘obtained score ± 3 SEM’.
 
Standardised Test
A standardised test will have been administered to a representative sample of a defined population in order to calculate norms.  Norms give information about the performance of this sample.  By using norms as reference points, teachers can compare the performance of their pupils with the standardisation sample.  A test can also have a standardised administration procedure, whereby strict instructions have to be followed by the administrator.
 
Stanine
A stanine (which is abbreviated from "standard nine") is a standard score ranging from 1 to 9.  Stanines are simple to use and place small differences of score in perspective.  Stanines have a mean of 5 and a standard deviation of 2.
 
Summative Assessment
This is used for the recording of the overall achievement of the pupil in a systematic way.  It occurs at the end of a scheme of work or phase of education, and a norm-referenced assessment is often used for this final summing up of performance. KS2 and KS3 tests and GCSE exams are quintessential summative assessments.
 
Test
The entity for which a score is given.  May comprise many batteries of sub-tests.
 
Test-Score distribution
When a group of respondents take a test, they will all in general get different scores. (that is the whole point of testing!)  Their scores will be spread over the available score range.  This is called the distribution of scores and can be studied from the point of view of how it sits on the score scale: everybody at one end, all in the middle etc.  The classic case is the symmetrical bell-shaped distribution known as the normal distribution: most children clustered around the middle with a few at the ends: the top end being the able children, the bottom end the not-so-able.
 
Validity
A valid assessment measures what it claims to measure.  Evidence may be presented in various ways satisfactory correlations with other assessments of the same abilities or skills; or with teachers estimates of their pupils' abilities; or with the pupils' subsequent achievements such as their results in public examinations.
 
Verbal Reasoning
Recognising patterns and relationships expressed in words, and the ability to reproduce and extend them.
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