During term time the workload can be relentless – planning, marking, behaviour management, observations, parents’ evening and data tracking
Rachel Whyld, Teacher
Though Bir and her coding school have circumvented all of these problems by simply removing examinations from their educational process, there is no indication that 42’s model will become a norm for the foreseeable future. Traditional assessment is here to stay, and therefore any initiative that deals with any of the above issues (system efficiency, construct validity, reliability, the teaching and assessment of hard-to-assess twenty-first century skills) will be a welcome submission to Reimagine Education
It’s not whether schools will move to digital assessments, it’s when they do it and how.
Joen Bonnier, Owner, Bonnier Group
Assessing group discussions
Similar problems face those who might seek to use technology to evaluate another of Ahmed et al’s ‘hard-to-assess’ skills: group discussions. As the ability to improve interdisciplinary, collaborative work becomes an increasingly desirable component of the modern worker (and researcher)’s skillset, assessment procedures need to be set up in a way that allows employers and universities to evaluate how well an individual functions in group discussions.
Yet, again, it is difficult to see how digital assessment might function here. Reasonably sophisticated voice recognition technology might permit, for example, a digital examination platform to assess how frequently a given individual contributed to a group session.
Yet this would again be an oversimplification of the construct under assessment, saying nothing about the quality of contribution. Nor would it allow the assessor to acknowledge that the term ‘quality of contribution’ is a multi-faceted one. A quality contribution is certainly one that takes the group closer to solving the problem at hand – a missing piece of evidence, or well-placed suggestion.
In addition, group discussions are unstructured and often emotionally-charged: the contributor that reminds the group that they are finding their way onto a tangent or calms two antagonistic parties down is also making a ‘quality contribution’. Though AI technology might one day reach the level of sophistication necessary to account for all of these issues, it is certainly unable to do so currently – and human assessors are still uniquely able to evaluate these constructs.
Measuring hard-to-assess skills
If there is one takeaway from the OECD’s experiment, then, it is that a full transition to digital assessment may be – at least in part, and temporarily – stymied as soon as it has begun. If the theoretical trend is towards constructing assessments that are able to assess complex skills in complex contexts – the skills that the modern worker needs – digital assessment will remain, for the time being, a step behind.
One might argue that this is only temporarily to be the case. AI will doubtless continue to advance, and, as human educators get better at defining the constructs that they seek to assess, the finest educational technologists of the age will be, progressively, better-able to set up technology that can measure performance according to those constructs.
Nor is this meant to detract from the excellence of DigiExam. DigiExam remains a highly-effective IT tool that allows teachers to create, administer, and mark exams in the fraction of the time that it previously took to do so. It is designed to revolutionise current practice, and it received its award as the result of our judges believing that it is able to do so.
Rather, this piece is designed to make clear how much scope there is for the ed tech industry to innovate in the field of assessment. If Bonnier’s belief that the future of assessment is digital has the quality of truth, Ahmed et al.’s paper makes it clear that it is only a partial truth – at least for the foreseeable future.
To make that future a present for the world’s students and educators, the type of collaboration that Reimagine Education is designed to foster is necessary. Employers must continue to identify the skills that they believe that their workforce will need, and must liaise with the academic community to define both precisely what those skills are, and how they might be measured.
The ed tech community – both within academia and outside – will then be empowered to use the talent at their disposal to ensure the vision that Ahmed et al., and DigiExam, articulate becomes a reality: valid, reliable assessment of complex skills, in a format that reduces the administrative and temporal burdens on the educators that seek to teach those very skills.
To find out more about DigiExam, join the “DigiExam: Digital Assessments Made Easy” webinar to discuss strategies for navigating and selecting digital assessment tools, hear about the benefits of digital assessments, and learn how to easily create, administer and grade digital assessments using DigiExam.