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Consider rst what the de ning features of simulations are and how they differ from other forms of assessment Simulations mimic the real world without having to duplicate it They can be designed to achieve a high degree of realism but this is not necessary This differentiates simulations from both work sample exercises, which are slices of real activity, and analogous exercises, which, like simulations, draw on the same set of skills and abilities as real work but do not attempt to mimic real work activities Simulations do not have to mimic all aspects of real work activities but they have to be recognisable as a simulacrum of real work The US Navy has developed the notion
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ISSUES THAT SIMULATIONS FACE AS ASSESSMENT TOOLS
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of scaled simulation, identifying only those features of an activity that must be included to ensure the committed engagement of participants (Ehret, Gray, & Kirschenbaum, 2000) Being a recognisable simulacrum usually requires some degree of skill integration, and it is this that distinguishes most simulations from traditional, single construct, psychometric tests of ability Achieving a very high degree of realism in simulations often entails huge costs, which are dif cult to justify unless the assessment stakes are also very high Furthermore, a high degree of realism in the activity does not guarantee reliable and valid assessment Indeed, the need to impose an assessment activity on top of the simulated work activities can often detract from the realism of the simulation and, if poorly integrated into the task, decrease the level of acceptance by participants One way to judge the value of simulations, particularly when computer delivered, is to evaluate them against a common assessment framework For the purposes of this chapter, consider the list in Table 101, based on one produced by the EURYDICE Unit at the National Foundation for Educational Research for the Quali cations and Curriculum Authority in the UK (O Donnell, Sargent, & Andrews, 2003) In fact, a number of these dimensions need not be considered in detail since they apply equally to simulations, computer-based assessment and other forms of testing The following sections, therefore, consider only those dimensions, marked with an asterisk in Table 101, where speci c issues arise
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Table 101 Common Assessment Framework (O Donnell et al, 2003) Comments Who ensures that assessment conditions are appropriate, suf ciently secure and that con dentiality is maintained, and how is this done What are the assessment needs of the client and the candidate and what claims are made for the assessment outcomes Who gets involved, in what way, and who decides the nature and timing of the participation What content is included, what assessment method is used, which version, and how is the assessment delivered How is it ensured that administration of the assessment is suf ciently standardised and runs smoothly How is the assessment scored, interpreted and matched to assessment requirements What implications do the results of the assessment have for the client and the candidate Where in the organisation s competence management system will the results be used, and how will the results be fed back to clients and candidates How will the technical and operational quality of the assessments be established and checked to ensure that value is still being delivered over time
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Framework dimension Control* Purpose of assessment Participation* Nature of assessment* Administration* Interpretation* Consequences Use of results Monitoring and review
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COMPUTER-BASED TESTING AND THE INTERNET
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At the general level, however, computer-based simulation can bene t from a number of improvements related to the computerisation of tests There are two main ways in which computerisation has undoubtedly improved assessment practice The rst is in increased ef ciency in the delivery and administration of assessment materials and the second is in increased exibility Increased ef ciency can be achieved in a number of ways:  Quicker, and more accurate, scoring You only have to consider the volume of testing reported by Melnick and Clauser to appreciate how expensive and time consuming the hand-marking of test papers can be  Providing different types of score, some of which would be dif cult or impossible to produce otherwise For example, Hornke and Kersting refer to formula scores, maximum likelihood scores, person t indices and others that are only feasible with the advent of computerised scoring  Adaptive testing, which, in the right circumstances, can give equally reliable and valid results for signi cantly less testing effort Hornke and Kersting report time savings of up to 25%  Item banks and form generation can cut down hugely on the time taken to produce parallel versions of tests  More rapid evaluation of test quality Likewise, exibility can be achieved in a number of ways:     On-demand testing Wider distribution of assessment sites and accommodation Greater variety of answer and response formats Greater variety of content presentation formats with greater control of the presentation
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However, all of these have costs Furthermore, it is not always clear that computer-based simulation results in more sophisticated assessment One sign that computer-based simulations do not necessarily deliver more sophisticated assessment can be seen in the guidance and standards documents that have been produced on computer-based testing (see for example, the British Standards Institute, 2002; International Test Commission, 2005) The focus is almost entirely on how to ensure the quality of delivery and administration given the constraints of the technology The sections on psychometric quality could, invariably, have been written about any sort of testing
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Control Good control of assessment involves a range of activities ranging from control of the assessment event (eg timing of the assessment event, choice of test version) through updating or enhancement of assessment materials to test
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