African Journal of Health Professions Education

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Standard setting and quality of assessment: A conceptual approach

S S Banda


The debate with regard to standard setting continues among scholars, but the perfect method remains elusive. Nonetheless, resolute demands for accountability by means of defensible, valid and reliable practices, including pass or fail decisions, provide an opportune vehicle for scholars to consider the quality of assessments and ramifications on standard setting. This conceptual review considers how standard setting can be placed strategically in the quality dialogue space to address concerns about credibility and defensibility in the literature. Quality performance standards and the effect of assessment outcomes are important in the educational milieu, as assessment remains the representative measure of achievement of the prescribed performance standard but also includes the quality of health professions education (HPE). The author suggests that standard setting can be a pivotal focus for technical and psychometric sufficiency of assessments and accountability of HPE institutions towards stakeholders. Standard setting should not be seen as a methodological process of setting pass/fail cut-off points only, but as a powerful catalyst for quality improvements in HPE by promoting excellence in assessments.
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