I attended a talk about Ipsative Assessment by Gwyneth Hughes which has to do with the comparison with the previous performance of a student. The term originates from sports (personal best in athletics is an ipsative assessment).
Ipsative assessment is focusing on the journey of learning rather than on competition. In ipsative assessment a learner is not compared with other learners. He/she is compared with themselves. The focus is not so much on grades.
Assessement may be demotivating when a learner is getting poor grades.
Competitive assessment can damage self-esteem and reduce learning (Dweck 1998)
3 benefits of Ipsative assessment:
- Distinguishes between learning and attainment
- Enhances student motivation and self esteem
- Looks learning in long-term
Hughes made a nice analogy of ipsative assessment and a sat-nav. With ipsative assessment you don’t see the destination, you see the journey
How can ipsative assessment be applied in practice?
- Ipsative feedback
- Ipsative marks and grades
- ipsative assessment criteria (to demonstrate progress, i.e. portfolios)
There are also challenges with Ipsative assessment as it is something new and needs time to be developed and perhaps awareness should be raised to both tutors and learners with regards to ipsative assessment.
I find ipsative assessment a stimulating way to assess students. Being a student myself for many years now, I was often feeling demotivated by bad grades. When I was at school I was never reflecting on the progress I was achieving compared to myself. Not everyone can be perfect but it is important to see how one develops. For example when at school, back home in Greece, students were competing with each other and were asking who was getting the best grade. I was not an excellent student and my parents were never telling me off if i was not getting the best grade. However, they were awarding me each time I was getting good grades. School was not the only thing in life. They were motivating me to other things apart from school, such as sports (that I was bored to do most of the times), learning an instrument or learning foreign languages. But they were never pressuring me or my brother to do something. Later on, when I went to the university 4 years gone by and I graduated. I never felt pressure from my parents but there was an intrinsic pressure from other peers, to get good grades so that we get on a good post graduate program.. I was always doing my personal best and I did not try to compete with others.. perhaps I was thinking that I might have not been good enough to compete with them because of my mediocre grades. My grades were never too bad but not excellent. A few years after graduating from the university, I decided to study to a foreign university. I then realised that grades did not really matter. I got accepted in a post grad program and I experienced another educational system , without exams. Just writing assignments and presenting my work. It was really exciting to do that, there was less pressure (no exams) and I was getting lost in hyperlinks, in books.. I was discovering the knowledge by myself.. And I realised that compared to my undergraduate studies I made huge progress and proved myself that I can be a better student in a different educational system.. And this developed my self-esteem and my confidence as a student. I then decided I want to go on with my studies and did a second master, on research methods this time, in order to be able to start my PhD. It’s very tough but when I am reflecting on the progress I have done from being a mediocre student at high school to getting to a PhD ..then I think I’ ve done a good job. Compared to my previous performance and my current performance there is NO comparison. I have learnt so many things.. and I have so much to learn !
Today’s lesson: Compare your current learning performance and progress to your past performance. Are you moving a step further?