Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Transforming assessment for learning in the digital age - JISC online conference 2010

This was session 1 by David Bould. Even though I'm not directly involved in assessment I thought this session was really interesting. David argued that assessment has such an influence on learning, whether that is good or bad pratice. The digital environement has frequently been misused producing poor forms of assessment. He said we need to think about how assessment affects learning and ask the fundamental questions:

  • what is assessment for?

  • why are we doing it?

David argued that we need to transform assessment and stop pretending it's ok. That's not digitial assessment but any assessment. Assessment for learning and assessment for certification are in conflict -we end up with a messy compromise. Assessment should be about building learners capacity to make judgments about their work beyond the current task.

We need to see assessment in the digital environment as just part of the whole business of assessement otherwise digital assessment just locks into the primitive view of assessment. This is something I hadn't really thought about. Are we using digital assessment in a closed/negative way rather than making the most of it's potential?

We need to reclaim learning as the purpose of assessment - shift it to the longer term. Assessment for the longer term needs to be sustainable and beyond the immediate context. Something to consider - a students early experience with assessment will formulate what they believe is valuable. So if you start with memorisation then they will take that as being the most important - we need to set down at the start markers for assessment.

Employers look at what students have the potential to do more than what they have done - this is why longer term thinking is needed. We need to encourage students to develop informed judgment about their own learning.

Assessement needs to develop reflective learners. It should help them to become pratitioners, build confidence and develop the capacity to work well with others.

David provided a link to examples of assessment practice to foster learning - which I haven't had chance to look at yet.

Digital technology provides the opportunity to create assessement for learning. It allows for user-control, responsiveness, collaboration, multi-media (multi-model). But we must make sure we don't fall into certain traps:

  • teachers dominating because everything can be pre-coded - ends up being oppressive

  • students not involved in key steps in the assessment process - for example when developing what are the appropriate standards and criteria to apply to the assessement don't leave them out of this stage

He saw the key areas for development as:

  • feedback - for feedback to be affective you must be able to see the effect on students work

  • self-judgment - self assessement like e-portfolios or ReView

  • collaboration in assessment - group tasks, peer feedback, consideration of standards and criteria, moderation of marks

To sum up it's not all about the technology, we'll use whatever is available and user-friendly. It's not about the method, there are plenty about. It's about the disposition towards learning and seeing assessment as an essential tool in promoting learning.

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