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Challenging Einstein: how can technology work hand in hand with human interaction in formative assessment?

Challenging Einstein: how can technology work hand in hand with human interaction in formative assessment?

Blog post from Daniel Howard, MD at ForSkills around the benefits of e-learning. Republished with kind permission from NCFE

Albert Einstein feared the day that technology would surpass our human interaction. He stated the world would have a generation of idiots... is this now the case? In a world where digital fluency and digital literacy are sought after skills to improve communication within business, was Einstein right?

Is the increasing use of technology within education taking over our human interaction with learners, and where does technology enhanced learning and digital literacy fit into all of this?

There needs to be a fine balance between the professional judgement of staff (which thankfully is getting the credibility it rightfully deserves in the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF)), and the vital role of technology in the formative assessment process. Teaching staff must use a combination of professional judgement and technology to determine an individual’s starting point.

Having provided over 2.7m assessments to the sector in the last year, I can say with clear evidence that eLearning assessment solutions are helping the formative assessment process evolve. Digital assessment tools and electronic portfolio systems are continuously developing to keep up with the changes faced by the sector, but will we ever get it right? Or like Einstein’s theory should we never replace the human elements within learning, to assess academic ability?

The draft EIF inspection handbook refers to the evaluation of the use of technology to deliver content and assess learning. Therefore, a blended approach to assessment would appear to be a key component to accurately adapt teaching, learning and assessment accordingly and create a curriculum that is engaging, motivating, and promotes positive attitudes towards learning.

If inspectors are now reviewing the intent, implementation and impact of the taught curriculum, then technology has its part to play in improving standards and increasing participation in learning and assessment in a variety of forms.

Firstly, reviewing prior learning should form part of the formative assessment process and there has been much debate recently on how providers are calculating prior learning amidst rumours of the sector not complying to the strengthened funding rules. Assessing prior knowledge is critical to establish the individual programme a learner will embark on; it shouldn’t be a driver for how much funding you can get. These are people whose development and future is in our hands.

Secondly, assessment should support the ongoing teaching of the curriculum, helping to embed and use new knowledge and skills fluently. An ongoing review of work and strategic questioning should help learners to consolidate their learning and prepare individuals for summative and end-point assessments.

So how can you effectively triangulate the evidence of all this amazing information, reliable judgements and non-qualification activity that demonstrates the progress that learners make from their starting point?

It could be that this is where our friend technology comes into play. Not in terms of surpassing human interaction as per Einstein’s fears but actually working in collaboration with the great work that teaching staff do, enabling us to clearly evidence impact in a measurable way. So let’s be so bold as to challenge Einstein’s assertion! Let’s demonstrate how when it comes to formative assessment, technology does not need to ‘breed idiots’ but instead can enhance learner experience by supporting human interaction, not replacing it.

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