This week, I had the privilege of delivering a keynote to an intimate gathering of representatives from UK-based awarding bodies in London.
It's not a secret that I’ve often found myself at odds with traditional examinations. But, sitting amidst this dynamic group of assessment experts, I was heartened to find myself joined by them in my quest for change.
This brief essay offers a glimpse into our thought-provoking discussions, hopefully shedding light on the future direction of assessments.
I have framed it with these five critical dichotomies:
#1: The Battle Between Knowledge and Skills
We are at a juncture where our measurement of learning needs a radical shift.
The advent of artificial intelligence has thrown into question the reliability of assessing knowledge recall. The traditional recourse of confining assessments to pen, paper, and supervision, bereft of any external resources, rings hollow in today's era where collaboration and research are held in high esteem.
The need of the hour is to pivot towards assessing the skills learners are honing, emphasising the application of knowledge over the mere possession of it.
#2: The Transition from Jobs to Work
We stand on the precipice of a global shift from a job-centric to a work-centric economy.
This transition, eloquently explained in Ravin Jesuthasan's latest book, "Work Without Jobs", advocates for a flow of talent towards tasks, rather than completing tasks merely because it's our job.
Consequently, our educational system and assessment methods must urgently realign to a skills-based approach, discarding the redundant "What job do you want to do?" paradigm.
#3: The Tug of War Between Inference and Assessment
How do we measure a person's skills meaningfully?
The answer lies in inference. Observing learners to infer their skills promises greater accuracy than traditional assessments. Equating knowledge with skill often leads to a conundrum, as the two are distinct entities.
The scalability of inference will be made possible with the assistance of artificial intelligence.
#4: The Divide Between Eligibility and Suitability
The job market is filled with eligible candidates who may not necessarily be suitable.
While grades and qualifications determine eligibility, suitability is a separate entity, one we frequently overlook. Eligibility does not guarantee skill possession, especially in terms of the soft skills required to be a dynamic part of a workforce or team.
Suitability, however, can be inferred.
#5: The Dilemma of Regular Versus Endpoint
Knowledge measurement may be suited to an endpoint assessment, yet the inference of skills necessitates regular evaluation.
Currently, there exists a gaping void for technology capable of providing ongoing analytics of learners' skill development.
This is another area where AI promises to be transformative.
Above all, I am immensely encouraged.
Encouraged by the willingness of those who wield the power to change assessment systems, to seriously engage with these thoughts and actively pursue change.
Ultimately, the beneficiaries of these changes will be our students, our children, and ourselves.
The future of assessment is evolving, and we are at the helm, steering it towards a more promising horizon... I hope.