Analytic versus holistic assessment

Analytic versus holistic assessment

Are you an experienced teacher, juggling assessment types and methods easily, but still looking for some inspiration? Or are you more of a casual passerby, not knowing what some of the terms you come across on this website mean? In either case, you’ve come to the right place! In this column, we provide an overview of testing and assessment methods, explain jargon and scientific terms in simple language, and supplement with some literature suggestions for those who’d like to keep reading. Today we talk about analytic versus holistic assessment. 

Because of their complexity, competencies are much more difficult to assess than knowledge. For example, how do you assess writing assignments, presentations, portfolios or visual works? To try to capture the quality of such complex assignments in a value judgment, teachers can use a range of different assessment methods. We previously discussed absolute versus comparative assessment methods. Today we talk about analytic versus holistic assessment.

Analytic assessment methods

Analytic assessment methods assume that the quality of work is determined by the quality of the various sub-aspects of the competence. These sub-aspects are then predetermined in a criteria list or rubric. During assessment, the teacher will give the task a score for each sub-aspect. By taking a (weighted) sum of the sub-scores, the final score is determined.

Although criteria lists and rubrics provide guidance to the assessor, they are not always as reliable as we would like them to be. You probably know the feeling that the final score, after struggling through a long list of criteria, does not quite match the quality of the work. That’s because complex tasks often cannot be captured in a streamlined assessment framework. Research shows that there is often an overlap between the aspects that need to be distinguished. This makes assessment difficult and inefficient.

Holistic assessment methods

In holistic assessment methods, on the other hand, one is convinced that the sub-aspects of the competency being assessed are so interrelated that it is difficult to assess them separately. Consequently, one assesses the task as a whole, without using criteria lists or rubrics. As an assessor you rely on your own expertise. Through working this way, you automatically take several criteria into account. This includes the criteria that are not made explicit in a criteria list. An example of a holistic assessment method is comparative judgement.

Want to read more?

Lesterhuis, M., Donche, V., De Maeyer, S., Van Daal, T., Van Gasse, R., Coertjens, L., … & Van Petegem, P. (2015). Competenties kwaliteitsvol beoordelen: brengt een comparatieve aanpak soelaas?. Tijdschrift voor hoger onderwijs. -Deventer, 1983, currens33(2), 55-67. Link

Pulles, T., Den Ouden, H., Herrlitz, W. en Van den Bergh, H. (2013) ‘Kan een meerkeuzetoets bijdragen aan het meten van schriftelijke taalvaardigheid?’ Levende talen tijdschrift, 14(2), 31-41.

Van Petegem, P. & Vanhoof, J. (2002). Evaluatie op de testbank. Een handboek voor het ontwikkelen van alternatieve evaluatievormen. Mechelen: Wolters Plantyn.

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