Rethinking assessment for the future
How collaboration will help us move the assessment system forward to support learners’ development
David Gallagher CEO of NCFE
Over the past few years, we’ve seen some truly incredible instances of innovation and adaptation to help keep learners moving forward and progressing within the vocational and technical space. As a result, there have been some real silver linings to these processes that we should hold on to as we rethink how assessment can work for the future – including whether it’s fit for purpose for learners, and if it’s robust, resilient, inclusive and fair.
So, as we stand on the cusp of transitioning into the ‘new normal’, there’s no better time to discuss the future of assessment and the possibilities that it holds, as well as the many innovations that can help to support the development of learners in years to come.
Why focus on the future of assessment now?
Ongoing discussion, portfolios of evidence, and practical observation are all well-established ways of evaluating student learning and providing ongoing feedback. Yet, with the pace of change in the world caused by the emergence of disruptive new technologies, major society trends, and the impact of the pandemic, the needs of the labour market will continue to evolve rapidly.
To keep up and best meet these needs, more must be done to shift the dated, disconnected and transactional approaches to assessment within the formal education setting. We can do this by looking at the future of assessment and identifying the key ingredients required to achieve systems and approaches that are truly transformational for learners, educators and educational institutions.
Assessment goes far beyond just exams or one-off summative gateways. It should be an integral component of the learner journey that showcases learner, educator, and institution level strengths, which also helps to build trust, confidence and value for all stakeholders involved.
This is why our vision at NCFE is to break the boundaries of assessment within education, promoting innovation that creates robust, reliable and inclusive assessment for all.
What does the future of assessment look like?
When we discuss assessment innovation, many people picture the likes of virtual reality headsets and algorithms – but it doesn’t always have to mean this! It can cover approaches to assessment that connect data and provide quality insight, as well as other solutions through which learners are given the best tools to succeed. In fact, from a vocational and technical perspective, high-quality formative assessment can radically improve learning experiences and outcomes.
Our recent T Level developments demonstrate this, as we used real-world provider and employer feedback to innovatively influence the design of these qualifications and assessments, ensuring that they’re valid, authentic and experience led.
It’s also crucial to note the vital role of teachers in the discussion around assessment innovation, as it is they who know their subjects and students best. As with our T Level developments, working in partnership with teachers, employers and providers ensures that any changes designed will truly add value, so that the tools and technology they receive go on to make learning and assessment as engaging as possible.
Beyond the assessment itself, we should also start to think about a transformational way to recognise progress and achievement. The traditional certificate doesn’t always show the scale, depth and breadth of what a learner has gained from a programme – so why couldn’t this be more visible, potentially through technology, skills validation or digital record of achievement type applications? These are the types of questions that are truly exciting, demonstrating the scope that assessment innovation hosts for real change.
Great innovation needs great collaborators
At NCFE, our purpose of promoting and advancing learning drives our commitment to delivering world-class educational services that help to shape smarter learning. We firmly believe that great innovation needs great collaborators – which is why we’ve launched our Assessment Innovation Fund.
Our fund is investing £1million to support the piloting of brand new and technology-based approaches to assessment, helping to develop ideas for better assessment design in order to meet the needs of the learners and educators of tomorrow.
We’ve already seen some fantastic ideas come through and secure funding as part of phase one, such as the use of personalisation in assessment and the provision of digital badges for certification.
True, impactful change comes from collaboration, which we’ll need in abundance to move the assessment system forward to support learners’ development. By sharing knowledge and working together, we’ll have the best chance to ensure that the future of assessment is increasingly robust and appropriate, as well as fair and inclusive, to best serve learners at all stages of life.