Mocking a broad Teuchtar accent, Steve Wheeler opened the eAssessment Scotland Conference in Dundee with a light-hearted humour that had the room instantly engrossed in the first keynote of the day. Of course the accent was not just a fun antidote; soon Steve was drawing witty parallels between international miscommunications and growing language barrier between the Digital Generation and the rest of the world. Education needs to change, this is widely agreed, but assessment appears to have missed the revolution movement. Teach the way they learn; assess the way they learn.
Borrowing from the greats, Steve firmly made his point that today’s schooling is not working:
I have never let my schooling interfere with my education – Mark Twain.
Knowledge that is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind – Plato.
We are preparing today’s children for a largely unknown future – David Warlick (Cathy Davidson, in her new book Now You See It also purports that 65% of careers do not exist yet).
One-size-fits-all is almost a thing of the past within education (or at least educators are trying very hard to make it so), therefore one begs the question, why is assessment still so standardised?! I read recently that the Scottish education system is one of the best in the world (see OECD, Quality and Equity of Schooling in Scotland), our Secondary school assessment process is largely successful (foundation, general credit, intermediate, higher etc) but still we see a huge lack of personality. Knowledge is being assessed on how much you can remember in a two hour period for unknown questions under extreme stress (I should know after several near melt downs during my education). The student is not being assessed on their ability, they are being measured against others to a sheet of neatly prepared answers that they must know almost telepathically or they fail. One thing that really struck me during Steve’s keynote was his philosophical wisdom v knowledge; knowing everything at the drop of a hat is not the point, knowing where to find the information is. Digital wisdom is the new learning capital.
As an obsessive learner I was thrilled when a term came up that I had never come across before; Ipsative Assessment. My basic understanding of this term is bettering oneself, i.e. competing against your own past marks and improving. As far as I am concerned this is how assessment should always be carried out, after all the purpose of school and education is surely to expand one’s own learning sphere. No one should be considered smarter, or dumber than anyone else, we all learn at different rates, we all take in different things; why? Because we are all different! Schooling needs to take hold of the fact that no one is the same, and that’s not a bad thing. If we were all the same and had the same learning curve we would all be doctors, or lawyers, or pilots, and the world would be a very dull place.
I love the idea of Ipsative Assessment (just so we are clear on that). Since last Friday my brain has been working overtime with everything I heard and saw at eAssessment, but this has definitely been at the forefront of my mind. I don’t understand why the education sector didn’t jump on this 10, 20 years ago!