The future of assessment: opportunities and challenges, November 2019, Vilnius, Lithuania
Last month I was invited to attend and speak at a roundtable event in Vilnius hosted and organised by The National Agency for Education, Lithuania and RM Results.
This was my first trip to Lithuania and, if I am honest, my first engagement with the educational assessment sector within Central and Eastern Europe, and as I flew into Vilnius my mind was brimming with lots of questions about how e-assessment technology is used in this region – are the challenges different from the ones that we face in the UK; are the benefits of technology enabled assessment viewed differently from the ones that we understand and aspire to?
Of course the reality was that the possibilities, the benefits and the challenges are much the same, but as always, it is fascinating to hear about what others are looking to achieve with e-assessment, and I was encouraged by the determination and interest within the delegates around what can be achieved.
In the first part of this event we spent some time understanding more about what the future might hold by exploring some of the areas of innovation that are evident and becoming increasingly part of the overall landscape in other industry sectors, and we heard from RM Results about how they are looking to embrace such technology advancements to augment and support the assessment delivery and marking process.
The second half of the event was focused on hearing from exam boards from across the region on their experiences of e-assessment use and development. We heard about the key challenges and lessons learnt in Lithuania around the transition from paper-based to on-screen marking for their ‘Matura’ school-leaving exams, where ~30,000 students work across 12 subjects was successfully e-marked by over 1,200 teachers in May and June this year, with tight deadlines for turning around results for university entry, whilst maintaining high quality assessment delivery.
Cambridge Assessment shared its experiences of taking over the development and running of school entry tests for the government’s Presidential Schools in Uzbekistan, with 28,000 students being assessed on a range of skills including critical thinking and problem solving, and where the biggest challenge was in maintaining ‘trust’ in the assessment being fair within a national context where this is not always perceived to be the case.
In Croatia, the national exam board has piloted the use of on-screen testing technologies to deliver a range of problem solving assessments to ~7,000 students aged 7-14 years across 48 primary and 26 high schools. We heard about the challenges encountered in supporting concurrent test delivery across a large group of students, with over 90% of the primary school students taking the assessment on tablet devices. However, the pilot was deemed a success and the Croatian exam board is looking to more than double the number of students taking part in the 2020 deployment.
We also heard about the large-scale use of high stakes e-assessment deployment by The State Examination Centre of the Republic of Azerbaijan, where they chose to invest a significant amount of money to develop their own onscreen testing system, which has now been deployed to over 180,000 students undertaking their school leaving exams across 15 subject areas.
We also explored some of the challenges of formative assessment within the context of national testing, with the Lithuanian National Exam Centre talking about some of the work they have been doing in this area to help students understand and use the feedback they receive to advance their achievement in the longer term.
All in all this was a fascinating event that provided some really useful and insightful commentary on a range of e-assessment projects from across the region. For me, there was no doubt that everyone understood and bought-into the benefits of utilising technology to support the delivery of assessment both at high stakes and other educational contexts, and it was so interesting, for me at least, to see the similarities on all levels with the e-assessment landscape here in the UK.
Matt Wingfield, eAA Chairman