A critique of the assessment of professional skills

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practice ARTICLE


Anne Hewitt

I Introduction

As someone who has spent his entire career doing research, writing and thinking about educational testing and assessment issues, I would like to conclude by summarising a compelling case showing that the major uses of tests for student and school accountability over the past 50 years have improved education and student learning in dramatic ways. Unfortunately, that is not my conclusion.1

Well designed assessment can be an important part of the learning process.2 However, as suggested above, not all forms of assessment will fulfil this function. In order to improve education and student learning in ‘dramatic ways’, assessment must be appropriately designed and implemented. This is often a complicated task, especially in non-traditional academic disciplines, such as the teaching of professional skills, which demand experiential testing.3 This is further complicated by the inevitable tension between logistical convenience and sound educational practice.4

This article will outline five key criteria in the design of credible assessment tasks for skills subjects in an academic environment. Two models for assessment of professional skills in an academic environment (at the University of Adelaide and Bond University) will then be evaluated in relation to these criteria.

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