Communication strategies for enhancing qualification users' understanding of educational assessment: recommendations from other public interest fields

The outcomes of national assessments in many countries provide 'qualifications' or 'credentials' that may be used to define the levels of students' knowledge and skills, for their own use and that of employers, higher education institutions and others. Qualification users, such as students, parents and teachers, arguably need to have an understanding of some basic principles of educational assessment in order to make informed judgements about the reliability of assessment outcomes, and to develop realistic expectations of what assessment systems can deliver. The goal of achieving this has gathered pace recently with the completion of a two-year research programme in England that explored concerns around technical aspects of assessment and current levels of public understanding of assessment. One of the recommendations of the programme was that qualification awarding bodies should collect and make available information relating to the reliability of outcomes for various types of qualification. Further consideration is required, however, to determine what, and how much, assessment information would be useful to qualification users, and how it might best be presented and disseminated. As a contribution to this process, this paper discusses the communication strategies employed in other fields for the purpose of sharing important messages with the public. Three recommendations are offered for overcoming some of the challenges inherent in improving communication and understanding of assessment. The paper concludes that enhancing qualification users' understanding of assessment may be achieved by focusing on the presentation of applied, interpretive information and dissemination through influential peers from various stakeholder groups.

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