Criterion- and norm-referenced measurements have been debated over which is the best type of assessment. Both assessments have positives and negatives, but its up to the teacher to decide what is best for their classroom. Criterion-referenced measurement is used to compare an assessment to a learning task. Norm-referenced measurement is used to compare an assessment to the own student’s level (Linn & Gronlund, 2000).
Criterion-referenced measurement is also known as grading on a bell-curve. This has been criticized because it sorts students into categories, which can be unfair to students that perform poorly on one exam, but are placed into a different level. Criterion-referenced measurements are then used to place students into their “class” system by how well they have performed. Using this type of assessment can be considered a plus though because it is considered “democratic equality,” but this idea is not often agreed upon (Fendler & Muzaffar, 2008).
The United States classrooms are pushing to use more norm-referenced measurements, but criterion-referenced measurements are still used for standardized testing. An international look into Sweden shows that the use of criterion-referenced testing can be helpful in increasing grade point average. This is due to many different aspects and was shown to depend on the grade level and the gender of the students (Wikstrom, 2005).
While criterion-referenced measurement can be a positive, norm-referenced measurement can be as well. It does not allow for discrimination between high and low achievers. This type of grading also individually specific, so it does not compare the student to other students, which allows for more creative assessments other than just exams (Huitt, 1996).
While criterion-referenced measurement has been used often, even in the international setting, it may not always be the best choice for a teacher’s classroom. Many teachers are required to use it for standardized testing, but hopefully more teachers are beginning to use norm-referenced measurements in the classroom for their grade determination. In the end, it is up to the teacher and administration to make the final choice of how grading will occur.
Fender, L. & Muzaffar, I. (2008). The history of the bell curve: sorting and the idea of normal. Educational Theory, 58(1), 63-83.
Huitt, W. (1996). Measurement and evaluation: Criterion- versus norm-referenced testing. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved May 31, 2009, from http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/measeval/crnmref.html.
Linn, R. L., & Gronlund, N. E. (2000). Measurement and assessment in teaching (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Wikstrom, C. (2005). Grade stability in criterion-referenced grading system: The swedish example. Assessment in Education Principles Policy and Practice, 12(2), 125-144.