the e-Assessment Association

Research Project: The changing global attitudes towards digital technology and high-stakes summative assessment

Research Project: The changing global attitudes towards digital technology and high-stakes summative assessment

COVID has made a huge impact on the education systems across the globe, and numerous studies have been undertaken to understand how learning has been impacted, but until now, no research has been conducted to understand how COVID has changed assessment internationally. This is an opportunity for you to share your perspective and take part in a global research project.

Launch the international landscape survey >

National responses to assessment during the COVID pandemic have been mixed. A small number of countries were able to capitalize on their strong and positive position having already started pilots or programmes to move towards digital assessment. Other countries which relied mostly on paper-based approaches to assessment have found it harder to switch to digital technologies for assessment during the pandemic and have resorted to other models such as teacher assessed grading. We know this from various pockets of reporting and media coverage, but these stories are often shared by people outside of the assessment community such as the press or those critical of the education system. What is certainly not shared is how assessment will be handled going forward. Will countries go back to the old ways? Or will they embrace the new?

What is clear, is that the global assessment community needs to understand the full international picture and ask the question, Has COVID changed our attitudes towards moving to digital assessment?

To help understand the global situation, RM has launched a major research project with the support of the IAEA (International Association for Educational Assessment) to gather these global attitudes and to understand how the landscape has changed. Speaking about the project, Melanie Thomson from RM stated:

“We know from our work with awarding bodies and assessment organisations around the World that the drivers and challenges in the journey to moving from paper to digital assessment varies between countries. The impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on education systems in many parts of the World has really changed the conversation around how we assess learners, particularly in a traditional exams context. At RM we want to understand the changing needs of the education and assessment markets we serve, and play an active role in helping our customers shape the future of assessment.”

By working with the IAEA on this project, RM and their research partners, Shift Insight, plan to produce a detailed and in-depth research report which provides a global perspective on the digital adoption landscape for high-stakes summative assessment. The information within the report could then be used by individuals across the globe to inform local policy and promote more international collaboration. Speaking about the IAEA’s contribution, Dennis Opposs stated:

“One of IAEA’s purposes is about international cooperation amongst educational assessment organisations. We always think it is helpful for educational assessment organisations to see if there’s something they can learn from people elsewhere in the World.”

During the IAEA’s 2021 online conference, there was significant interest in this topic, however, without the data to support the discussion, it was difficult to fully understand how the situation will progress over time. Talking about the 2021 IAEA Conference, Dennis observed:

“One of the sessions at that conference was about allowing participants to gain a greater understanding of how different examination organisations from around the world have dealt with the pandemic and how they plan to deal with similar events in the future. Not surprisingly the future of digital assessment was one of the issues that were raised at that session. RM’s survey is a really useful follow-up. It’s a great opportunity for the association’s members to take just a few minutes to contribute their views on digital assessment.”

Following on from this apparent need for the data, the project intends to gather as many perspectives as possible from across the globe via a survey and interview process. The research will look both at the measures employed during the pandemic and their success, as well as whether any national assessment programmes will see an increase in their use of digital technologies, and if not, why not?

Transformation is happening right now, with countries such as New Zealand already offering digital assessments for their NCEA exams [1]. In the UK AQA has just announced plans to pilot adaptive digital assessment for GCSEs [2], it is hoped that this research will uncover similar projects elsewhere in the world and understand the motives and goals behind these projects.

Not all nations face the same challenges and opportunities, and therefore, it’s important to understand the direct and indirect barriers and benefits.
On the question of how the research will be shared, RM’s Melanie Thomson stated:

“RM will be publishing the research findings in full in a research report which will be shared openly with IAEA members and available online for the wider community to access too. We will also seek to present the insights from this research at relevant events and conferences during 2022, including the IAEA annual conference.”

With research projects that handle sensitive matters such as national education, individuals are often concerned about providing personal insights as their opinions may clash with political or institutional perspectives. By using a third-party professional research partner, RM, and the IAEA hope that people will be more willing to share their expert opinions.

On the subject of research methodology and anonymity, Lisa Mai, from Shift Insight stated:

“The survey is currently live. During the survey, respondents can indicate if they wish to take part in the follow-up interview stage. We want to reassure people that we only report on survey and interview findings on an aggregate level, and not on a case level. When including direct quotes from interviews, we make sure these are redacted so they contain no information that could make people identifiable.”

How to get involved
The research project including the survey and interviews started at the end of 2021 and will continue in early 2022. If you would like to get involved and share your views and experiences on the use of digital technology in assessment then please complete the survey, or email Lisa Mai: [email protected]

[1] https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/digital-assessment-vision/

[2] https://www.aqa.org.uk/news/aqa-to-launch-major-on-screen-assessment-pilot