Fairness in human judgement in assessment: a hermeneutic literature review and conceptual framework

Nyoli Valentine*, Steven Durning, Ernst Michael Shanahan, Lambert Schuwirth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Human judgement is widely used in workplace-based assessment despite criticism that it does not meet standards of objectivity. There is an ongoing push within the literature to better embrace subjective human judgement in assessment not as a ‘problem’ to be corrected psychometrically but as legitimate perceptions of performance. Taking a step back and changing perspectives to focus on the fundamental underlying value of fairness in assessment may help re-set the traditional objective approach and provide a more relevant way to determine the appropriateness of subjective human judgements. Changing focus to look at what is ‘fair’ human judgement in assessment, rather than what is ‘objective’ human judgement in assessment allows for the embracing of many different perspectives, and the legitimising of human judgement in assessment. However, this requires addressing the question: what makes human judgements fair in health professions assessment? This is not a straightforward question with a single unambiguously ‘correct’ answer. In this hermeneutic literature review we aimed to produce a scholarly knowledge synthesis and understanding of the factors, definitions and key questions associated with fairness in human judgement in assessment and a resulting conceptual framework, with a view to informing ongoing further research. The complex construct of fair human judgement could be conceptualised through values (credibility, fitness for purpose, transparency and defensibility) which are upheld at an individual level by characteristics of fair human judgement (narrative, boundaries, expertise, agility and evidence) and at a systems level by procedures (procedural fairness, documentation, multiple opportunities, multiple assessors, validity evidence) which help translate fairness in human judgement from concepts into practical components.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-738
Number of pages26
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Assessment
  • Fairness
  • Health professions education
  • Judgement
  • Subjective


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