Moving beyond exam-based evaluation
Are we on the cusp of an educational revolution? Can we build personalised learning systems in an era dominated by the narrow metrics of standardisation assessments that have remained largely untouched since the industrial revolution? Moreover, can we do this without dismissing the realities of validation and necessity for trustable quality assurance?
Dr. Kevin House, Education Futures Architect at Education in Motion, argues yes. Though, as he explores in this article, the industry faces several challenges, some operational, others institutional, a few cultural.
Assessment models, qualifications, and transcripts appear as an immovable object in education. An object that can often stifle personalisation and the recognition of creativity, innovative collaboration, and independent critical thought. An object that hinders young people’s demonstration of a wider range of knowledge, skills and dispositions when presenting themselves to tertiary institutions or the world of work.
Moving beyond mass exam-based assessment has been to date left in the ‘too-difficult’ bucket with the hope that the next generation may take it on. Many find solace with the notion that ‘kids these days just need to toughen up’. Meanwhile, education reformists make curriculum revisions in the hope that we will stumble across a learning experience that provides more tangible value for today’s students. All this as nation states and individual schools chase ever higher scores from standardised assessments such as PISA, A Level and IB Diploma.
Much has been written in the last decade about student personalisation in the curriculum. This has increased awareness of its importance amongst teachers, students, and parents and this is to be applauded. But personalisation of assessment has yet to gain a similar amount of traction in educational innovation. There are, of course, practical reasons for this not being prioritised. We use assessment to determine a student’s next steps, monitor progress over time, maintain teacher and school accountability, and grant access to future learning and employment. However, these assessment outcomes should not mean we overlook the shortcomings of large scale standardised assessment systems that are prone to problems such as grade inflation, which have a detrimental impact on students’ agency, motivation, and wellbeing.
In this brief article, I outline how Education in Motion (EiM) schools are leading education innovation to transform assessment and enable students to remain inspired throughout their schooling. EiM is broadening how assessment can inform student growth and recognise an increasing spectrum of learning by building more personalisation into how students learn and evidence their learning across an increasingly wide range of knowledge, skills, and dispositions. To accelerate this process, we have focused our education strategy on three key drivers: innovation in teacher’s practice, inspiration in the school curriculum and transformation in methods for recognising and credentialing learning. —— Dr. Kevin House
Over the last years many of our schools have worked closely with assessment experts in the UK and elsewhere to refine feedback for students, increasing both teacher expertise and the whole student experience. To complement such professional learning examples, we have also established well over 60 collaborative groups amongst teachers throughout our network to fully embed best practices and promote shared adult learning.
In educational innovation we have been developing a range of future-focused curriculum frameworks that bring to reality experiential, academic and dispositional learning that tackles real-world problems so that students can explore meaningful problems in context and working with universities, industry, and NGOs.
Like all schools, we have relied on a narrow set of academic qualifications that do not enable students to demonstrate the wide range of learning they access from the wonderful education we offer. But we are changing this. We have been researching new forms of digital wallets that incorporate such things as NFTs, badges and micro-credentials alongside more traditional qualifications. We have been developing robust relationships with world class universities and national validation bodies so that these new credentials carry weight and have the required recognition so that our students are able to have a personalised education experience, and still stand out in the ever more competitive worlds of tertiary and industry.
While the desire to innovate plays such a key role in many aspects of our lives in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, willingness to bring creative approaches to student assessment appears lacking. Well-established, industrial models of evidencing, validating, and recognising learning continues to dominate compulsory education. Change is complex and challenging, but it is also essential if we are to protect the wellbeing of our next generation and make their learning truly meaningful. At EiM schools, we are doing our best to explore, to pioneer and to innovate in this crucial area of education.