Performance tests in Vocational Education and Training (VET), Lieke Walet

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The Dutch government has decided that since this year, all vocational education and training (VET) in the Netherlands must be competence based, instead of based on knowledge and skills. This has led to changes in learning outcomes, since students are now acquiring competences in which knowledge, skills and attitudes are integrated and not taught separately. Students that just graduated are supposed to be competent as a newly qualified job practitioner.  Not only teaching is affected by this shift to competence based learning, but also examination. It is widely acknowledged that in order to meet the goals of education, a constructive alignment between instruction, learning and assessment is necessary (Biggs, 1996). As a consequence, there is a need for assessment methods that can adequately determine competence acquisition. Simple multiple choice tests are not suitable for measuring a student’s competence (Gulikers, Bastiaens, Kirschner, 2004), more practical, direct measures of competence are needed. New modes of assessment have been introduced, such as performance assessments, situational judgment tests, and portfolio assessments (Baartman, Bastiaens, Kirschner, Van der Vleuten, 2006). Performance tests are a part of the assessment of competence. However, performance tests may have different characteristics. Tests can range from 30 minutes to a couple of days, have a different standard for passing, and may be judged differently. The test may be in an environment which resembles the future job environment, in which students must work like any other day, or behavior is provoked by creating situations in which the student is supposed to act appropriately.


Although performance tests are supposed to be the most valid method of assessing competences, literature on performance tests is scarce. In this PhD-project, the focus will be on several aspects of performance tests and the effect on the decision about a student’s competence.


Topics will include:


-Reliability and method of judgment, a comparison between holistic and analytic judgment

-Standard-setting; How do we set standards for complex performance tests?

- Length of the test (efficiency);  Can a critical incidents exam tell us the same about a student as an extensive, authentic exam?

-Authenticity:  Development of a measure for authenticity.


The project is funded by ECABO.