Featured Articles

Dr Stuart Edwards

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

The pandemic has shaken the world of assessment. As with other societal habits like commuting and meetings, it has brought lurking questions and doubts back to the surface.

One of these is whether it continues to make sense to step out of the digital world to assess people’s competence to function within it.

The powers that be have somewhat hesitantly acknowledged the impact. Simon Lebus, the Chief Regulator at Ofqual, spoke of the experience of the pandemic in these terms:

“Longer term, however, there is clearly going to be scope to reflect on what we have learned during this time and what implications it might have for assessment. I am thinking especially of the large-scale of adoption of technology and online learning and its integration into pedagogy, and whether that will ultimately have a washback into assessment.”

This week sees the publication of my report for the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, a Review of the Potential for E-Assessment for Technical Education in England.

I hope this can help move things forward and perhaps accelerate the technology “washback” into assessment, at least in so far as technical education is concerned.

The challenge of assessing technical education

The first point to acknowledge is that assessing technical education is inherently complex and difficult.

Simon Field highlights the key dilemmas in his recent FE News piece based on his parallel study for Gatsby “A WORLD WITHOUT MAPS? Assessment in Technical Education”.

The central challenge is to achieve both reliability and validity. Standardised examinations can enable rigorous and replicable assessment, but are they a credible means of assessing practical occupational competences?

Assessment embedded in real world occupational tasks is likely to be more authentic, but this cannot easily be standardised.

In England, these inherent challenges are played through against the backdrop of a highly complex, centrally-regulated system of technical qualifications and apprenticeships with multiple players involved. Significant resources are expended on a range of assessment methods, seeking to achieve both validity in the eyes of employers and reliability for the purposes of comparability and academic progression.

Results are critical for how providers are funded and regulated. However, there is limited robust evidence for the effectiveness of current practices, and there are practical concerns, particularly about the amount of time and effort absorbed by assessment activities which are separate from and do not contribute to teaching and learning.

The potential of technology-based approaches

Technology can be used in a wide range of ways for different assessment methods, at different stages of the assessment process. I have found it helpful to think of different technology-based approaches being on a broad spectrum of transformative potential in relation to the challenges of assessing technical education.

Many existing approaches offer practical ways to enhance existing assessment practices, but do not necessarily change the nature of the assessment process itself. Others appear to have greater transformational potential, but may be more difficult, to introduce within the current context and require more investment.

The table below illustrates this distinction in a simplified form for specific applications of technology.

TECHNOLOGIES AND TRANSFORMATIONAL POTENTIAL

Practical improvements to existing assessment practices

Potential to transform technical assessment

automated multiple-choice tests and script marking

remote proctoring and invigilation

e-portfolios

work-based assessment apps

e-credentials and badging

adaptive assessment using the growing capability of AI

data capture and performance analysis technologies used in real workplace settings

simulations using VR and AR to create controlled assessment environments

games technologies blurring lines between formative and summative assessment

Examples in the lefthand column apply largely to how the assessment is delivered, marked or recorded, but don’t change the assessment method itself.

Those in the righthand column have greater potential to change the nature of the assessment itself. Using these technologies in combination, an alternative model for assessing technical education can be conceived, moving away from separate ‘stop and test’ assessment to a more continuous process embedded in the teaching and learning, and in the workplace itself.  

For example, it is possible to imagine a simulation designed using data captured from performance tracking and analysis in a real workplace, using a gamified approach for assessment that adapts intelligently to how the game is played. Such a model has potential to address some of the inherent challenges and issues for assessing technical education.

Elements of what is possible can already be seen in areas such elite sports, the military and pilot training. However, take-up of the more transformative technologies is currently very limited within the centrally regulated system in England, and where technology is used it is largely to enhance more conventional assessment methods.

The impact of the COVID-19 disruption has led to a greater willingness to explore alternative approaches to assessment using technology, but it has also exposed current limitations.

Encouraging more transformative approaches

The necessary technology already exists and is developing quickly but its use in education is relatively immature. Moreover, the centrally-regulated market within which assessment of technical education takes place in England is not particularly conducive to the introduction of transformative change.

Its complexity, the number of players involved, the number of qualifications, the limited research base, and an understandably risk-averse culture all make innovation difficult. On top of that significant ethical and legal considerations need to be taken into account.

My report considers what more might be done to open up opportunities to at least test out more transformative applications of technology for assessing technical education, and includes four recommendations:

1. Leadership.

First, there needs to be more concerted system leadership. Leaving it to the market with individual Awarding Organisations responding to a hands-off regulatory framework is unlikely to work.

The main bodies regulating the assessment of technical education in England – led by the Department for Education (DfE), and including the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), the Office for Students (OfS) and the Awarding Organisatons (AOs) – should make a policy commitment to work with employers to encourage and explore greater and more transformative use of digital technology for assessment.

2. Promising areas for change.

Further work should be undertaken to identify and illustrate occupational areas of greatest opportunity to test out new and transformative approaches to using digital technology for assessment. The Gatsby Foundation is ready to support this work in partnership with IfATE, employers and other key interests.

3. Demonstration projects.

Building on the identification of promising occupational areas, a competition should be run to seek proposals that could be supported as demonstration projects, the organisation and evaluation of which should be considered by DfE alongside other interested parties such as JISC and the University for Industry Trust (UfI).

4. An “EdTech Catapult”.  

Discussions around the report raised the question of whether there is now a case for some form of Catapult or accelerator type organisation focused on bringing together research and innovation in EdTech more broadly. It can be argued that the limited progress with use of technology for technical assessment is illustrative of a much wider issue, which the impact of the pandemic has brought into sharper focus.  

The report therefore recommends that to support the broader development of EdTech, Innovate UK should be asked by DfE and BEIS to review the research and innovation landscape, with a view to assessing the case for an “EdTech” Catapult or similar mechanism.

Identifying occupational areas which are most promising for change

As a next step, I will be working for Gatsby on the second of these recommendations, identifying occupational areas which are most promising for change. For this, I will be seeking others’ ideas and looking for case study material, particularly from employers.

Please look out for more details and a call for ideas from FE News readers in a follow up article due to be published next Friday 29 October.

Making the case for change

The everyday lives of young people are increasingly digital. The world of work they are being prepared to enter is increasingly digital. The means by which we ask them to prove their readiness for that world seems increasingly out of step.

Yet the potential exists for more transformative use of technology that is not only better in step with the real world but could help address some of fundamental challenges associated with assessing technical education.  

With the new Ministerial team at DfE, and the new mantra of “Skills, Skills, Skills”, perhaps now is the time to get serious.  

Dr Stuart Edwards, independent consultant and adviser, former college chair, and honorary research associate at the UCL Knowledge Lab

End to end learner journeys – from initial to end-point assessments - #FutureOfAssessment Episode 4

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page