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Dual modes for written assessments: Examining validity and reliability

Jan Eyre

Computer-based testing is on the increase, especially for large-scale assessments where there are advantages for manageability, administration, and reporting. In Aotearoa/New Zealand, NZQA has announced plans to move NCEA examinations to an online platform, with a dual-assessment model available for selected levels and subjects from 2016. The dual-assessment approach appears to reflect an assumption that results in either mode are comparable, and that both approaches test the same set of skills. However, there is evidence that differences between computer- and paper-based modes exist, and that these have the potential to compromise the validity and reliability of these dual assessments. This article argues that these differences, especially when students are required to demonstrate their understanding through written responses, have the potential to create an unfair situation that disadvantages some groups of students. This may lead to a widening of the gap between our lowest and highest achieving students.

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