NIS International Research-to-Practice Conference

Inspirational Speakers

Richard Phelps

Richard Phelps

Richard P. Phelps is the Director of Research and Strategic Resources at the Association of Boarding Schools of the US and Canada, a Specialist Scholar with the US Fulbright Commission, and the Editor of the Nonpartisan Education Review.

Richard received degrees from Washington, Indiana, and Harvard Universities, and a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Phelps is a Fellow of the Psychophysics Laboratory, and has been awarded research fellowships by the Educational Testing Service, the Association for Education Finance and Policy, and the US Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics. He has worked in education research and policy in the public sector at the local level (Washington, DC), state level (Indiana), and federal level (US Government Accountability Office), and internationally (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), and in the private sector for ACT, Westat, and Pearson Evaluation Services. Phelps taught secondary school mathematics in Burkina Faso (West Africa). He is the author and editor of four books on standardized testing, several statistical compendia, and dozens of articles in scholarly journals. Richard Phelps founded the Nonpartisan Education Group and currently edits the Nonpartisan Education Review. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina, in the United States.

VIII NIS International Conference, 27-28 October 2016: Keynote Speech

Designing an Assessment System

If standardized testing were just now invented, with no predispositions or expectations about its use, how would we use it? The most important theme to keep in mind is that standardized tests are not all the same. They vary in length, format, content, purpose, …in innumerable ways. The same assessment may be highly appropriate in one circumstance, and highly inappropriate in another. If one could design a system so that all tests in an education system were complementarily used to maximize their collective social benefit, what would that collection of tests look like? Which types of tests would be used where, …and when?

This presentation will respond to these questions, recognizing that there is no single correct answer. An impressive body of research evidence will inform the talk; some of the most informative, from cognitive psychologists, is fairly recent. Topics will include cognitive load theory; the variable nature of feedback; the interplay between stakes and security, and stakes and motivation; retrieval, spacing, interleaving, and other cognitive science concepts; the role of format (selected response, constructed response, authentic, etc.); and, more generally, the role of assessment in students’ intellectual development.


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