The most recent Pearson report, entitled Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment, adopts a critical view of current student evaluation practices and presents alternative frameworks for re-thinking success.
In the Forward to the report, Professor Lee Sing Kong, VP for Education Strategies at Nanyang Technological University acknowledged that despite assessment being a 'very complex topic' complicating the way test scores are evaluated, a comprehensive 'cultural shift' is essential to redefine the underlying purpose of education within society (p.1).
Authors Dr. Peter Hill and Sir Michael Barber begin the report by portraying the current assessment programmes as simplistic, one dimensional, and failing to aptly measure the true capacity of students. New learning and evaluative technologies are challenging the status quo, but more needs to be done to ensure that educators prioritize holistic metrics to assess student performance. The authors extensively detail six areas (p.4) that were challenged during the technology driven ‘education revolution;’ ranging from personalized learning to developing common terms for evaluating teacher performance.
Assessments, described as 'a field in need of reform,' are at the heart of the ‘education revolution,’ and the authors then present proscriptive solutions for remedying the inherent flaws in the current testing environment (p.5).
Developing a 'Next-generation Learning System'
Their proposed ‘Next-generation learning system’ (p.7) is depicted within an intersecting chart of six key areas advanced by technology that are defined as:
- Data management and analysis
- Professional learning
- Personalized instruction
Each of these categories contribute to new learning practices and help in 'rethinking the whole delivery process and how to best assist teachers to connect all the elements so they operate seamlessly' (p.6).
Incorporating Technology into Assessments
The report authors maintain that testing and grading can be revolutionized by using assessments that use technology to (p.8):
- 'Provide meaningful information on learning outcomes'
- Evaluate all the capabilities of students
- Develop new channels and platforms
- Encourage improvement and reduce potential for cheating
- Incorporate 'ongoing feedback to personalize instruction and improve learning and teaching'
However, the implementation of these new technologies and paradigm shifts will hardly be simple or seamless. As extensively shown in Section 3 of the report, there will be issues for each stakeholder involved, from the teachers to the students and the overall school system. When prioritizing what needs to happen first to achieve 'an integrated, multi-level view of assessment' a level of responsibility must be established to advance change. Accountability is essential and will help with the continuous evaluation of the progress of these efforts.
Proposed Framework for Action
The challenges presented through out the entire report culminated with a series of suggestions that could guide future policies. Specifically, the final stage of the report proposes the ‘framework for action’ that can help facilitate an assessment renaissance as 8 proscriptive categories (p.10 and p.70):
- Think and plan for the long term
- Build partnerships
- Create the necessary infrastructure
- Develop teacher capacity
- Allow variation in implementation
- Adopt a delivery approach
- Communicate consistently
- Apply the knowledge we already have about the process of change
The Pearson report comprehensively summarized the current challenges, the convergence of new technologies with old ways of thinking and learning, and the ways students could benefits from these improvements. Additionally, the authors additionally effectively incorporate a variety of viewpoints, citing academics, other reports, and organizations to supplement their survey of the current state of assessment.
The proposed 8 categories outlined in the 'framework for action' seemed to be just the beginning of conceptualizing the next steps needed for action. The report is undoubtedly a useful tool depicting the current state of assessment and showcasing how technology can truly benefit students, teachers, and school systems. However, the next steps for educators would be to have a more thorough, normative discussion about how to implement these ideas. The insights provided by the authors form the basis for rethinking this 'renaissance for assessment' and hopefully it will motivate future tactical conversations to develop concrete implementation strategies found within the report.