The future of assessment: more than just a paperless prospect? This #LTHE chat, led bySteffen Skovfoged and Sally Brown, will discuss questions based on how recent changes in practice we’ve brought about as a result of the Coronavirus crisis are likely to have a long term impact on, we hope, making the assessment of the future more authentic and fit-for-purpose. In particular, we will review how technologies alongside effective and positive curriculum and assessment design may lead to long lasting improvements in ensuring assessment is integral to learning.
The future of effective assessment – more than just a paperless future?
Recently, Jisc (2020) released their report on the Future of Assessment as part of their Education 4.0 vision to explore how emerging technology may change education. In the report, the contributors argue that universities and colleges should use technology to transform assessment by setting and following five principles of being more authentic, accessible, appropriately automated, continuous and secure. And as universities have in recent months have had to respond rapidly to Coronavirus conditions, now also seems a sensible point at which to rethink how we use assessment in the future. Having just made major changes to plans to deliver face-to-face, invigilated, time-constrained, unseen exams, do we really want to revert to former ways when the lockdown is over?
Jisc’s five principles argue that future assessments should be:
Authentic: they should prepare learners for whatever they are going to do next, meeting employer needs as well as testing knowledge, capabilities and skills in a more realistic, context-relevant and motivating way. As Bloxham and Boyd (2007, p.193) argue, ‘Being able to reproduce knowledge in a de-contextualised examination does not guarantee that knowledge can be used in a real-life setting’.
Accessible: they must be designed throughout to be usable by everyone to the greatest possible extent, including those who have a long-term disability, a short-term injury or a mental health challenge. The challenges of such expectations of inclusivity when using technologies must be addressed at the design stage, rather than expecting reasonable adjustments later on in the process.
Appropriately automated: approaches should ease teachers’ marking and feedback workload, and can potentially provide quicker, more detailed and more actionable feedback for students, so long as fit-for purpose principles (Race 2020) (purpose, methodologies, orientation, agency and timing), are integrated in new approaches.
Continuous: assessments in the future must be rich in practice opportunities and reflect the fact that students today need to be capable of lifelong learning, to adapt to changes in the world of work and across their lives rather than succeeding in one-off high-stakes, high-stress exams. Incremental opportunities to learn though feedback within the assessment process are likely to ensure better learning.
Secure: fostering sound academic integrity (Brown and Race, at press), ensuring that the right student is taking the right assessment and that the work they are submitting is their own and abides by the rules. Remote proctoring, whereby technologies can authenticate remote digital assessment candidates is one solution, as well as active restriction of software and other means of aids with specially designed “lockdown browser” technology installed on candidates own devices.
But how can these principles be applied in practice? And what barriers are educators facing when trying to abide to some of the principles, and how do we overcome the barriers? Are students really craving digital forms of assessment (or do they understandably seek the comforts of former approaches) and can we provide it without compromising the positive interactions of pre-2020 teaching and learning approaches? It is too early to say how the recent Covid-19 crisis will affect current assessment practice, but change it must, and the speed of extant change is likely to be accelerated. Is it possible to prevent academic misconduct without compromising student privacy and integrity? It will be valuable to explore these questions in the #LTHEchat, and discuss how universities and colleges globally are responding, as well as considering what we can learn and apply across the board that will make for better assessment practices in the future.
Using these principles as our departure point, this #LTHEchat will provoke, we hope, an inspiring hour of discussion, with opportunities to share our knowledge and practice as we try to work out how to advance the future of assessment. Guest hosts this week are Steffen Skovfoged from UNIwise, provider of the digital assessment platform WISEflow (with whom more than 100 institutions across Europe have used Uniwise to support their assessment, and they report that in the last two months the increase of online assessment has grown exponentially. He will be joined by #LTHEchat stalwart and passionate assessment afficionado, Sally Brown.
Steffen Skovfoged is Director at Uniwise, provider of the digital assessment platform WISEflow. Following a 15 year-long career in the Danish university sector, working his way up from student counselor to director of studies and development, he co-founded the company UNIwise as a spin-out from Aarhus University in 2012. Together with several colleagues from the university he headed out on a mission to help change the education sector from analog to digital, more aligned with today’s standards and the expectations of stakeholders, students, teachers and staff.
Sally Brown is an Independent Consultant in Learning, Teaching and Assessment and Emerita Professor at Leeds Beckett University where she was, until 2010,
Pro-Vice-Chancellor. She is also Visiting Professor at Edge Hill University and formerly at the Universities of Plymouth, Robert Gordon, South Wales and Liverpool John Moores and at Australian universities James Cook, Central Queensland and the Sunshine Coast. She holds Honorary Doctorates from the universities of Plymouth, Kingston, Bournemouth, Edinburgh Napier and Lincoln. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Senior Fellow and a National Teaching Fellow.
Bjerrum Nielsen, S. (2020) (blog) ’Preventing Academic Misconduct in digital exams using third-party programs’ https://uniwise.co.uk/blog/preventing-academic-misconduct-in-digital-exams-using-third-party-programs (accessed May 2020)
Bjerrum Nielsen, S. et. al. (2020) (blog) ‘WISEcon 2019: Beyond the standard written exam’ https://uniwise.co.uk/blog/wisecon-2019-beyond-standard-written-exam (accessed May 2020)
Bloxham, S. and Boyd, P. (2007) Developing Effective Assessment In Higher Education: A Practical Guide, McGraw-Hill Education (UK).
Brown, S. and Race, P. (2020) ‘Using effective assessment and feedback to promote learning’ in Hunt, L. and Chalmers, D. University teaching in focus: A learning-centred approach. Routledge, at press.
Brown, S. and Sambell, K (2020a) ‘Contingency planning: exploring rapid alternatives to face to face assessment’ Downloadable from https://sally-brown.net/2020/03/13/assessment-alternatives-at-a-time-of-university-closures/ (accessed May 2020)
Brown, S. and Sambell, K (2020b) Fifty tips for replacements for time-constrained, invigilated on-site exams Downloadable from https://sally-brown.net/2020/04/02/kay-sambell-sally-brown-coronavirus-contingency-suggestions-for-replacing-on-site-exams/ (accessed May 2020)
D’Arcy, Norma dot.net (blog), March 31, 2020. ‘Online Exam Proctoring’; https://darcynorman.net/2020/03/31/online-exam-proctoring/ (accessed May 2020)