Monday, November 19, 2012

Criterion referencing and norm referencing

Criterion referencing
According to Airasian, P.,2007, criterion referencing refers to a grading system that compares a pupil’s achievement to predefined performance standards. That is, the learner is compared to himself in contrast to a norm referencing system that compares the learner to other learners. This system does more justice to learners as they are graded with respect to how they performed irrespective of others performance
Table 1: Example of a grading system using criterion referencing
Grade
Result
Distribution
Out of 100 marks
A
Pass with distinction
80 to 100 marks
B
Pass
55 to 79 marks
C
Pass
40 to 54 marks
F
Fail
0 to 39 marks

Norm referencing
In contrast, under norm referencing, the grade that a pupil gets depends on how other pupils have worked. This is because this system is designed in such a way that there is a grade distribution across the various grading categories. The percentage number of pupils who would score a particular grade is already determined, irrespective of the score of each and every pupil. This may result in over grading or under grading of a learner as compared to a system of criterion referencing.
Table 2: Example of a grading system using norm referencing
Grade
Result
Distribution
A
Pass with distinction
First 20 percent of pupils
B
Pass
Next 30 percent of pupils
C
Pass
Next 30 percent of pupils
F
Fail
Last 20 percent of pupils

Comparison of grades under criterion referencing and norm referencing:
Situation 1:
Table 3: Example of grades scored by a group of 10 pupils for a particular assessment based on both criterion referencing (column A) and norm referencing (column B)
Column A
Column B
Column C
Column D
Column E
Grade as per
Criterion Referencing
Marks
Out of 100
Pupil
Rank
Grade as per
Norm Referencing
B
58
Amar
9th
F
B
65
Barney
4th
B
C
50
Cassim
10th
F
B
59
Deesha
8th
C
B
72
Eric
2nd
A
B
68
Hanna
3rd
B
B
76
Indira
1st
A
B
64
Jilani
5th
B
B
62
Karen
6th
C
B
60
Lam
7th
C

Table 3 shows marks scored (column B) by a group of 10 pupils (column C) at an assessment. They are ranked (column D) according to their respective score. The pupil with the highest score is ranked 1st.
Grades are shown both according to a criterion referencing system (column A) and a norm referencing system (column E) based on grades distribution as per table 1 and table 2 above respectively.
Note the difference in the grades for 7 out of ten pupils. For example, despite scoring 58%, Amar scores an F and is unfairly failing under the norm referencing system but passes with a B under the criterion referencing system.
Situation 2:
Table 4: Example of grades scored by a group of 10 pupils for a particular assessment based on both criterion referencing (column A) and norm referencing (column B)
Column A
Column B
Column C
Column D
Column E
Grade as per
Criterion Referencing
Marks
Out of 100
Pupil
Rank
Grade as per
Norm Referencing
F
36
Faez
7th
C
A
92
Gerard
1st
A
B
74
Mona
2nd
A
F
31
Nina
10th
F
C
52
Owen
6th
C
F
34
Praveen
9th
F
B
73
Rita
3rd
B
C
54
Suzy
5th
B
F
35
Tom
8th
C
B
61
Yasmine
4th
B

Table 4 is similar to table 3 except that the assessment is done a year later with another group of 10 pupils. Assuming both assessments were comparable, it can be seen that pupils Faez and Tom, 36% and 35% of marks respectively, have failed in a system using criterion referencing passed with a C under a norm referencing system.

Conclusion
As seen in the above examples, by measuring pupils with others (norm referencing), they are very often penalised because others have performed better. At other times, norm referencing can cause pupils to be over-graded simply because most pupils in the cohort performed badly. By so doing, norm referencing infers that pupils performance is much influenced by the level of difficulty of the assessment. This need not be the case. Other factors like the work of the tutor, facilities provided by the school, time devoted by the pupils themselves to revision among others also affect pupils performance.
Criterion referencing, on the other hand gives a more objective grading to the pupils rather than a relative one. Pupils are assessed according to their strengths and weaknesses. Criterion referencing also provide an indication of the strengths and weaknesses of a school curriculum and assess changes in performance due to the curriculum (Tucker, P. and Stronge, J.,2005).

References:
Airasian, P. & Russel, M., 2007. Classroom Assessment. New York: McGraw Hill Publishers
Tucker, P. and Stronge, J., 2005. Linking teacher evaluation and student learning. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.