We are working with Professor Simon Walker on exploring the impact of technology on the future of assessment and feedback. Simon has shared this post about his research to date.
As the world continues to shift towards a digital future, with generative artificial intelligence playing an important role, the way we assess education and professionals is also evolving. In this blog post, we will explore some trends and innovations in assessment, along with the challenges and opportunities they present.
Advancements in technology have allowed for the integration of digital assessment design, delivery, submission, marking, and moderation platforms in many universities. While this has the potential to improve the student and staff experience and reduce staff workload, there is still much technical work to be done in terms of providing LTI standards that allows data to flow across the digital ecosystem and provide integrated plug-and-play tools with platforms. Institutions must take a coordinated approach that involves strong strategic leadership, excellent communication, resources and staff to support assessment (re)design and training, partnerships with students for assessment co-design, and a willingness to work with platform providers to ensure data validity, integration, and security. They also have to bear in mind the need to update regulations and policies as they pivot to more digital assessment as well as identifying educational initiatives to create robust ethical practice. That’s a lot of getting ducks in a line.
Assessment practices are shifting from knowledge-based, traditional, standardized tests towards more diverse, authentic, and personalized evaluation methods that better align with students’ aspirations and careers. Teachers are designing assessments using digital technologies, including synchronous formative testing, randomised question banks, project-based assessments, and portfolios.
Maintaining and setting standards is critical, and the important role of Professional, Statutory, Regulatory bodies (PSRBs) for programmes that are accredited can play an important role. PSRBs work with universities to accredit their programmes, which are entry points to the profession or denote professional identity. All stakeholders must be confident in the controls around digital assessment that ensure the authenticity of each individual’s learning outcomes.
The modern workplace demands a set of interpersonal skills that allow people to work effectively in teams, communicate well, and adapt to change. With the growing importance of these skills, new methods of evaluating them are constantly being developed. The challenge with assessing soft skills lies in how to quantify something that is subjective and difficult to measure. Traditional methods such as oral assessment, combined with innovative digital strategies, including gamification and simulations, are becoming popular ways to evaluate these types of competencies.
New forms of assessment such as Virtual Reality (VR) open up a world of possibilities for immersive evaluation of real-world scenarios. Digital portfolios allow students to collect, organise, and showcase their work in a digital format, providing a more holistic view of their abilities. Cohort size is important, as larger cohorts may have to rely more heavily on automated high stakes assessment with interventions such as investigatory interviews to provide controls against academic misconduct. Digital portfolios allow students to collect, organise, and showcase their work in a digital format. This can provide a more holistic view of a student’s abilities, including various forms of evidence, such as videos, images, and written work. Some disciplines can take to digital assessment more easily than others. For example architecture uses an educational approach that relies on staff closely monitoring students’ hand drawn sketchbooks, discussing their ideas, and questioning them about their decisions. Digital outputs closely align to formative work, and can be easily authenticated as that students’ work.
The emerging interest in post-humanist approaches to curriculum conception and design have an impact on assessment. Assessment for social value or social good refers to its ability to stimulate meaningful effort that can contribute to positive social outcomes or benefits beyond financial returns. The focus is on analysing the environment, an organization, project, or policy to produce viable and imaginative solutions to local or global challenges. Digital assessment provides a natural home for this shift in pedagogical approach.
So organisational transformation to digital assessment requires a coordinated cross-institutional approach that involves strong leadership, excellent communication, resources and staff to support assessment (re)design and training, partnerships with students for assessment co-design, and a willingness of professional services, academics, and technical services to work with platform providers to ensure data validity, integration, and security. By embracing these trends and innovations, we can transform assessment practices to better align with students’ aspirations and careers, maintain and set standards, and contribute to positive social outcomes.
Please get in touch with us by emailing Sarah.email@example.com if you would like to join our Jisc working group to contribute to and review the research we are undertaking around assessment and feedback and the role technology can play.
Also see our Jisc guidance on Principles of good assessment and feedback and our supporting podcasts.