Confessions of a Standard Setter: The Dehumanisation of Educational Mastery

Dr Gregory Ethan Stone
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Standards and measures have existed within our society for centuries. Indeed, the development of civilization required the establishment of common units. Magna Carta references the need for an equivalent "pint" of ale across the kingdom, and Muslim scholars of the Seventh century refer to the quality of a man being defined by the standardization of his trading practice. Within education and the professions, standards are commonplace. Students are required to master a given quantity of information in order to be considered successful. Educational concepts of mastery vary little from those established within the trades' apprenticeship system. Yet clear and important differences exist between the mastery of observable skills and the achievement of educational goals. The indirect measurement of scholastic skills poses the challenge of translation not encountered in the assessment of observable qualities. Standard setters within education must first establish the quality of content mastery desired and then in some fashion, translate that quality onto a quantitative scale. While certain differences appear superficially obvious, they may instead be illusory. Measurement scholars have developed countless ways to perform this translation activity. Since the 1950s however, these activities have become increasingly dependent upon the statistical operationalization of the process. More specifically, the statistical methods employed lack the credibility associated with the definition of a construct and the establishment of validity. Students are increasingly held accountable to standards that are unexplainable from the perspective of content. Our limited understanding results in expressions of learned material devoid of content mastery. Further, expressions of desired levels of achievement can vary wildly, depending upon the characteristics of those charged with the establishment of the standard. The present paper will explore the current state of educational standards, their sensibility, and the dehumanisation of a process that is a critical requirement for human society.

Keywords: Standards, Achievement, Mastery
Stream: Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr Gregory Ethan Stone

Assistant Professor, Foundations of Education Research and Measurement, The University of Toledo

Dr Stone has been intimately involved in the development and conduct of standardized examinations administered across North and South America for 20 years. His pioneering work in the area of standard setting led to the development of the Objective Standard Setting model using advanced Rasch measurement modelling. He continues to direct several national examination programs while engaging in assessment research and evaluation projects. Stone presently holds the rank of Assistant Professor at The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, United States. A graduate of Shimer College (Waukegan, Illinois), Loyola University of Chicago, and The University of Chicago, Stone holds a doctorate in measurement, evaluation and statistical analysis, and a masters in psychology. His passion within education is to work towards an increased fairness in testing practices and the promotion of real meaning within measurement.

Ref: H05P0200