the e-Assessment Association

New Assessment Expert Group reports on first meeting

As reported in our July members newsletter, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) & AlphaPlus Consultancy have set up a new Assessment Expert Group. With their kind permission, we have reproduced the report from the first meeting.

Thursday 29 June 2017 – Summary of outcomes

What are the major issues, challenges and opportunities for the way we assess learners over the medium to long term future and what new and emerging approaches will be available that may help us to do things differently? These were the two questions posed to a meeting of an Assessment Expert Group hosted in London by SQA and AlphaPlus on 29 June.

The Group comprised a number of respected experts in education and assessment together with experts in new digital developments that are likely to have a growing place in the future of assessment. Each delegate was asked to come prepared to deliver a 5 minute ‘elevator pitch’ focused on what they saw as the key issue, challenge or opportunity for assessment or the emerging technology that could allow us to improve our approach.

The main themes raised in this session were:

The growing importance of ‘21st Century Skills’ and new possibilities offered by emerging technologies to assess and recognise them. The context for this challenge is set by increasingly vociferous views, in particular from employers, that current qualifications do not cover all of the things they value in employees coupled with predicted changes in the nature of employment and the workplace brought about by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Open badges and digital credentials generally are increasingly being used to recognise these new skills.

Greater use of technologies as part of our current assessment approaches, reflecting the fact that whilst other aspects of society are increasingly being transformed by technology, much assessment remains largely unchanged. Greater use of technology to deliver current assessments may also point to ways in which we can and should reconceptualise the goals and purpose of assessment and support approaches that are currently under-used. Examples include extended and multi-disciplinary groupwork and use of simulations and other innovative question types which would promote deep learning and help develop some of the 21st century skills referred to above and the use of comparative judgment for making assessment decisions.

Understanding and better managing the impact of assessment on learners’ dispositions towards learning and developing new assessment models that are designed to encourage ‘positive epistemic dispositions’ such as resilience.  There is growing research evidence that the development of these dispositions is a key predictor of success in later life. We need to understand how current approaches to assessment impact on these dispositions and how, in future, we can assess, track or evidence them in ways that give them currency.

Finding ways of increasing the involvement of teachers, and potentially others, in making assessment decisions while also protecting the accuracy and credibility of the results. It is widely recognised that teachers have a unique and distinctive contribution to make to assessment judgements. This is balanced by the perverse incentives that a high stakes accountability framework gives teachers to influence learner outcomes for their own benefit. How can assessments of the future most effectively include teacher judgements?

Redefining and rethinking current approaches to involving learners in the design of assessments and assessment systems reflecting children’s rights legislation. There is a legal responsibility for awarding organisations to involve learners in decisions which will impact on their futures as well as this involvement being a sound moral and ethical choice. The rights of the child and learners’ views about assessment should in future be treated as an inherent part of any assessment design and development process.

The need to rethink our approach to vocational assessment, combining expertise in assessment and technology to develop curricula that engage, motivate and challenge learners to think more deeply about their learning. A particular issue is the misinterpretation of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives which has led to approaches which equates complexity with difficulty, and then difficulty with levels of a qualifications framework, for example framing lower level qualifications with assessments solely involving knowledge and basic application with no analysis, evaluation or research.

The potential of Big Data and data analytics to deliver greater value from existing assessment approaches as well as supporting new models and approaches. What data will be generated by any assessment is increasingly seen as a key consideration at its design stage. Greater availability of data from our digital interactions in learning and in other walks of life offers new opportunities to assess new skills including collaborative problem solving and process skills.

The second part of the day was devoted to identifying specific actions that could be taken to help progress some of these opportunities. Unsurprisingly this was challenging although a number of specific actions were proposed. These, and the outcomes of the day more generally, will be reviewed further by SQA and AlphaPlus with a view to identifying tangible ways of progressing them.

An explicit purpose of the meeting was to help to inform a wider dialogue about the future direction of assessment. If you have views you would like to contribute to this dialogue please get in touch with us at Martyn.Ware@sqa.org.uk, John.Winkley@alphaplusconsultancy.co.uk or on Twitter using #SQAfutures.

The Expert Group comprised:

Dr Doug Belshaw – Independent Consultant, Open Educational Thinker

Andrew Boyle – Director, AlphaPlus

Prof Patricia Broadfoot  CBE – Professor Emerita, Bristol University

Prof Guy Claxton – Visiting Professor of Education, King’s College London

Prof Jannette Elwood – Professor of Education, Queens University, Belfast

Dr Bob Gomersall – Chair, BTL and Virtual College

Martin Hamilton – Futurist, Jisc

Sarah Maughan – Director of Research, AlphaPlus

Dr Paul Newton – Research Chair, Ofqual

Joshua Perry – Director, Assembly

Dr Sam Sellar – Reader in Education Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University

Barry Smith – Formerly Director, AlphaPlus

Martyn Ware – Head of Assessment Futures, SQA

John Winkley – Director, AlphaPlus