The outcomes of educational assessments undoubtedly have real implications for students, teachers, schools and education in the widest sense. Assessment results are, for example, used to award qualifications that determine future educational or vocational pathways of students. The results obtained by students in assessments are also used to gauge individual teacher quality, to hold schools to account for the standards achieved by their students, and to compare international education systems. Given the current high-stakes nature of educational assessment, it is imperative that the measurement practices involved have stable philosophical foundations. However, this paper casts doubt on the theoretical underpinnings of contemporary educational measurement models. Aspects of Wittgenstein’s later philosophy and Bohr’s philosophy of quantum theory are used to argue that a quantum theoretical rather than a Newtonian model is appropriate for educational measurement, and the associated implications for the concept of validity are elucidated. Whilst it is acknowledged that the transition to a quantum theoretical framework would not lead to the demise of educational assessment, it is argued that, where practical, current high-stakes assessments should be reformed to become as ‘low-stakes’ as possible. The paper also undermines some of the pro high-stakes testing rhetoric that has a tendency to afflict education.
- Educational Measurement