Original Research

Using standard setting to promote meaningful use of mathematics assessment data within initial teacher education programmes

Qetelo M. Moloi, Anil Kanjee, Nicky Roberts
Pythagoras | Vol 40, No 1 | a493 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v40i1.493 | © 2019 Qetelo M. Moloi, Anil Kanjee, Nicky Roberts | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 April 2019 | Published: 12 December 2019

About the author(s)

Qetelo M. Moloi, Department of Primary Education, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Anil Kanjee, Department of Primary Education, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa
Nicky Roberts, Centre for Education Practice Research, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Within initial teacher education there is increasing pressure to enhance the use of assessment data to support students to improve their knowledge and skills, and to determine what standards they meet upon graduation. For such data to be useful, both programme designers and students require meaningful and comprehensive assessment reports on students’ performance. However, current reporting formats, based on percentages, are inadequate for providing meaningful qualitative information on students’ mathematics proficiency and, therefore, are unlikely to be used for interventions to improve teaching and enhance learning. This article proposes standard setting as an approach to reporting the assessment results in formats that are meaningful for decision-making and efficacious in subsequent interventions. Mathematics tests, developed through the Primary Teacher Education (PrimTEd) project, were administered electronically on a convenient sample of first-year and fourth-year PrimTEd students (N = 1 377). The data were analysed using traditional descriptive statistical analysis and the Objective Standard Setting method. The two reporting formats – one using a percentage score and the other using standards-based performance levels – were then compared. The study identified important distinguishing features of students’ mathematical proficiency from the two reporting formats, and makes important findings on the specific knowledge and skills that students in South African initial teacher education programmes demonstrate. We conclude that reporting assessment results in standards-based formats facilitates differentiated interventions to meet students’ learning needs. Furthermore, this approach holds good prospects for benchmarking performance across universities and for monitoring national standards.


Standard setting; meaningful reporting; Objective Standard Setting; performance levels; performance standar


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