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Assessing the complexity of professional achievement

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/ProceedingsChapter

Published

Publication date2011
Host publicationLearning to be professional through a higher education
EditorsNorman Jackson
PublisherSceptre
Number of pages22
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Professional achievement is not limited to the well-established professions since professional behaviour is
required in a wide range of occupations and voluntary work. This situational variety makes the detailed
specification of achievement standards (as some are seeking) extremely – and in most circumstances
prohibitively – challenging. Approaches to assessment that are rooted in ideas of scientific measurement (which
inflect a lot of assessment in contemporary higher education) are inappropriate to the assessment of professional
achievement and need to be replaced by an approach based upon professional judgement. This can be
characterised in terms of a shift away from realism and towards relativism in assessment. Two consequences
are the need to take a critical perspective regarding the merits of technicalities of assessment that reflect
psychometric thinking and, where an overall grade is involved, the need to consider the appropriateness of
privileging assessments of academic work over those of professional achievement.
The challenges faced in work and volunteering range from the routine to the novel. The professional has to deal
with both, often in situations in which a ‘good enough’ solution is the best that can be achieved. The assessor
has the task of judging the achievement with respect to the prevailing circumstances. Assessors from
workplaces often prefer to make broad judgements of achievement. A key issue is the capacity of assessors to
make sound judgements. In some areas of higher education assessors are well-versed in assessing
professional achievement: in others there is less expertise in such assessing, and hence there is a strong
argument for relevant development work.
Assessing professional achievement is demanding on resources. Assessment regimes have to be realistic in
terms of what is practicable and what limitations follow regarding what can formally be warranted.