Rethinking Assessment: Let's Measure What Matters

Female student in a classroom, wearing a mask.

Prior to the Covid-19, the conversation about the future of assessment was already rich, with pockets of innovation happening all over the world. But there is a new buzz, and moment of opportunity, in this moment, when so many exams and standardized tests have been postponed or canceled. The questions of: What should we learn? and What, when and how should we assess learning? have taken centre stage, with the appetite for change seemingly larger than ever before. I had a chance to sit down with Bill Lucas, Co-Founder of Rethinking Assessments to discuss exactly what we should be rethinking.

Rethink The Focus Of Assessment

High-stakes assessment practices are a growing source of frustration across education. Many young people feel that current assessments are not a good barometer of what they know and can do, and employers decry the mismatch between what is measured, and what they need. It seems our focus is off. As Bill succinctly put it:

"Wherever you are in the world, the kind of exams that you have only capture a small amount of the skills that educators around the world are working every day to develop. It’s a pity." – Bill Lucas @ the Global EDU Summit, 2021

There is a notable disconnect between the type of skills that employers are looking for, and the skills that we test students on, to the detriment of all parties. We need to find ways to support the development of those “no regret” skills employers care about, like communication, collaboration and adaptability, and employ suitable, contextual ways for students to practice and demonstrate their mastery.

Rethink Our Models Of Assessment

Current models of “one-act performance” assessment are overwhelmingly stressful for some students, as well as being overly punitive. As Bill noted in our discussion, assessment systems that fail a proportion of students, by design, are antithetical to creating lifelong lovers of learning. And while it might seem logical that high-stakes assessment situations are useful to prepare students for the stress of fast-paced work environments, evidence suggests otherwise. Instead, it is the exact skills employers say they need (again, communication, collaboration, adaptability, resilience) that serve people best in a stressful work environment.

In real life, we are constantly making adjustments and refinements - rarely is there one shot to get something 'right' or 'wrong'. So it makes sense that our assessment models should better capture holistic, ongoing learning. Bill pointed to the International Baccalaureate program and the Extended Project Qualification as examples of more holistic measures of student success that take into account capabilities like risk-taking, open-mindedness, and reflectiveness, among others.

Other promising practices we could draw from include student-owned digital portfolios, micro-credentialing, and nontraditional exhibits that document learning. 

Rethink How We Use EdTech In Assessment 

A broad design-thinking approach will be key to developing assessment solutions that are effective for supporting and measuring learning. EdTech and AI can and must play a major role in this adaptation, and should be leveraged to ameliorate the inequalities of our current assessment regimes. We have much to draw on in terms of assessment options and best practice. And now, with so many classrooms using blended, hybrid and remote teaching, there are opportunities to prototype and test on a new scale.

Bill shared his view that the 2021/22 school year will give us an unprecedented opportunity to prototype, adapt, test and iterate on different kinds of assessments, in partnership with a growing number of students and teachers, as well as with parents, industry leaders, and government stakeholders. And he welcomed all comers to join their movement.

If you want to learn more about the Rethinking Assessment movement, you can join HERE, and connect with @LucasLearn today.