A few years ago a major concern expressed by teachers and educationists at the Ministerial Education Technology Action Group was that the testing regime was influencing how pupils and learners were being taught. Indeed “teaching to the test” and “the assessment tail wagging the pedagogical dog” were phrases often used to describe what was happening in schools and colleges, usually in a pejorative way.
How times have moved on as the evidence from this conference suggests the situation has now flipped and teaching and learning may benefit from looking closely at some of the technologies and assessment processes currently being used and piloted by a wide range of assessment organisations who are members of the e-Assessment Association (membership is free).
At the time the robust discussions with the Awarding organisations and the Exams regulator OFQUAL seemed like a never ending version of pass the parcel. The Awarding organisations were, and still are, anxious to ensure the assessment process is relevant to learners needs, takes advantage of digital technologies but remains reliable and valid. Many felt then, and still do now, that the Regulator has a limiting effect on innovation.
OFQUAL felt then, and still do now, that they do not.
The e-Assessment Question Conference
Almost two hundred delegates attended the two day event, which also coincided with the e-Assessment Awards event and dinner the evening of day one.
There are some big name players and there has been some big investment in the digital dimension of assessment by several companies and they were all on show at the awards evening where I was privileged to be invited to give the keynote address in between the smoked mackerel starter and main course mutton. A list of the finalists and winners is here.
The conference was a two day smorgasbord of how digital technology is making assessment more accessible, engaging, reliable, relevant, robust, efficient and effective. It also explored how some new technologies, AI, Block chain, VR, are beginning to shape the direction of travel and shift the paradigm from rows of desks, stifling exam halls and the increasingly obsolete use of paper and pen.
One fascinating session entitled 'The tension of e-assessment: Innovation versus Regulation' explored the old chestnut once again and the presentation from the Scottish Qualifications Authority and Qualifications Wales suggests progress is being made towards a more innovative approach. The delegates were less impressed with the OFQUAL representative’s contribution which was summarised as “we are always keen to listen” and greeted with polite tittering!
Glasgow College showcased some interesting work they are engaged in with a £50K grant from the UfI Trust to explore the use of block chain for digital credentialing. Other fascinating sessions included 'Remote invigilation, portfolios’ and assessment feedback, ensuring compliance in high risk markets, virtual assessments, diagnostic national assessments and many more. The full programme can be seen here.
The UfI Trust supports innovative use of digital technology in further, vocational and adult education and has grants from £50k-£300k available in a series of project calls.
So the central challenges remain...
- In a rapidly changing and evolving digital world how do awarding organisations ensure their methods are relevant, reliable , valid and offer value for money?
- How do schools and colleges and employers ensure they have a robust and secure digital infrastructure to support this obvious direction of travel?
- Most importantly how do we all ensure that the assessment tail and pedagogic dog stay connected and wag together?
Let us know your views to these questions in the comments box below.
The 2020 International e-Assessment Question Conference and Exhibition 'Diversity and Sustainability on a Global Scale' will take place on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd April 2020, America Square Conference Centre, London
Bob Harrison is the Chair of Governors at Northern College, A school governor of a Secondary Modern in Trafford, An Honorary Life member of City and Guilds, a judge for the TESFE awards, BETT awards, E-Assessment awards and Learning Re-imagined awards. He is a visiting assessor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education Master’s degree in Learning Design with Technology and a Trustee of the UfI Trust.
You can follow him on Twitter @bobharrisonedu or contact him at setuk.co.uk
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