Mini-symposium before the PhD defense

The role and development of selected response test items in higher education

Before the public defense of my PhD dissertation on June 10, a mini-symposium with the title: “The role of selected response test items in higher education” will be held from 10:30 to 12:30. During the mini-symposium, thought leaders in the domain of educational assessment in the Netherlands, Australia and the US showed a keen interest to share their knowledge, experience and views with a broad research oriented but also general audience.

LocationAurora zaal van de Vrije Universiteit.

Sign-up: (Inschrijven is helaas niet meer mogelijk: de zaal is volgeboekt)

Focus of the mini-symposium

Higher education institutions are increasingly held accountable for the quality and quality assurance of their teaching and assessment. Multiple themes and topics concerning assessment and testing are of major importance in this matter.

The focus of this mini-symposium lies on the ‘work horse’ of many assessment and testing practices in higher education: the selected response test item (multiple-choice, True-False, Matching a.o.). The quality of these test items determines to a large extent what students learn and how they perceive the domain or profession for which they study. Studying and improving the development of test items is therefore crucial for higher education.

During the symposium, a broad framework for assessment will be presented and within that framework the role, forms, development and quality assurance and development of selected response test items from multiple perspectives. Recent developments about the design and use of selected response test items will be discussed.

For who?

The mini-symposium will be of interest for anyone involved in the research, design of instruction, testing and assessment in higher education. A very broad audience therefore. This includes test experts, teachers, teacher trainers, examiners, exam board members, policymakers, quality assurance functionaries and professors.


Heladyne-Tom-157X213As a very special guest, Emeritus Professor Thomas Haladyna of Arizona State University will be presenting. In the field of research into developing and validating test item he is by far the most publishing and cited author. Important publications are his books Handbook of Test  Development and Developing and Validating Test items.

More information about Prof. Thomas Haladyna can be found here.

desiree joostenThe other special guests is Dr. Desiree Joosten-ten Brinke of the Open University of the Netherlands. Dr. Desirée Joosten-ten Brinke is associate professor at the OU in the domain of assessment. She is specialized in designing and applying (digital) assessment and informal learning. Teacher training and research are central. She is also lector ‘Eigentijds Toetsen en Beoordelen’ at Fontys University of Applied Science in Tilburg. She plays an important role in the Dutch debate about the quality and quality control of learning and assessment in the Netherlands. Her latest book De kwaliteit van toetsing onder de loep currently has quite an impact in the higher education sector.

More information about Dr. Desiree Joosten-ten Brinke can be found here and here.

Lamber SchuwirthThe other special guest is Prof. dr. Lambert Schuwirth. Prof. Lambert Schuwirth is professor at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia and Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He has been researching and writing in the field of assessment since 1993 and is member of the editorial boards of various medical education research journals. His main interest is the assessment of medical competence and performance in both undergraduate and postgraduate training settings.

More information about Prof. Lambert Schuwirth can be found here.


  1. Dr. Desiree Joosten-ten Brinke will kick-off by introducing a quality framework for assessment  (quality pyramid for contemporary assessment) and discusses with us some of its characteristics and will point in particular to the position of the tasks and test items in that pyramid.
    uitgebreide piramide
  2. Prof. Lambert Schuwirth will follow with an expose of various assessment forms in medical and general education. Most people do not have a lot of knowledge nor ideas concerning the classic assessment forms that exist and what their merits and problems are. Lambert will provide an overview and pay special attention to the various written assessment forms.
  3. Finally, Prof. Thomas Haladyna will present three particular themes with regards to selected response test items.

Training item writers—How and how well?
Policy makers and teachers in higher education always are under the assumption that with a short workshop, some simple guidelines (to prevent flaws) and letting a colleague/test expert review items, one has dealt with the issue of training. But what does research tell us? How much training would be needed actually?

Cognitive demand—what is higher order thinking?  Bloom’s taxonomy?
There is quite some misunderstanding (or oversimplified perspectives) regarding the taxonomies in education and assessment. Clarifications in which insight of cognitive psychology are presented regarding novice-expert differences will be discussed.

Technological advances in generating test items
What does the future bring to education with respect to test item generation? An outlook in which automatic item generation is central and what technologies/conditions need to be in place for generating such items? Are these techniques usable in higher education?

4. Conclusion: The speakers and the audience discuss the themes presented with each other and try to draw some conclusions for recommendations for practice and research.


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