What does 21st century assessment look like?
Assessment in the 21st century still needs to follow established ‘rules’ of good practice: it should be valid, reliable and fair (for more on this, see the Policy and Regulations section):
reliable (consistent and fair)
We also need to remember that the way we choose to assess will impact on how students choose to learn: assessment is, it has often been argued, a key driver in shaping how students learn (Gibbs and Simpson 2004).
In addition to this there are some particular challenges facing teaching, learning and assessment practice in the 21st century and assessment practice has a significant role to play in addressing these challenges. When considering assessment for your programme or module, you may need to think about the following:
Designing for uncertainty. Roles (and even professions) are increasingly ill-defined and fluid. Students need to be able to recognise the knowledge and skills they are developing, and have the understanding and confidence to apply them in new contexts.
Designing for information surplus, not scarcity. Although there may be some core concepts in the subject that students need to ‘know’, we live in an age where that information is likely to be readily available - along with a vast amount of other information, that may be contradictory - and it is equally likely to change fast. Students need to be equipped with the necessary skills to be effective learners in this context.
Designing for lifelong learning. Those who develop lifelong learning skills will have an advantage in the fast-moving 21st century market. Students need to be able to recognise learning opportunities, evaluate their own strengths and weaknesses, give and receive feedback, and know how to direct and improve their own learning (Boud and Falchikov 2006, Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2006).
Designing for the student as ‘consumer’. Love or hate the term, more than ever before in the UK students are looking to make informed choices about where and how they want to study. Student opinion of the assessment and feedback experience is part of the data they use to make this choice; as institutions we are accountable to them and we need to be conscious of this when designing that experience (HEFCE 2014).
Designing for contemporary practice. Learning is an increasingly seamless experience, crossing boundaries of formal and informal education (Sharples et al. 2012). Students and employers increasingly expect the technologies they use every day to form part of the Higher Education experience (JISC 2010).
What implications do these challenges have for assessment design and practice? Do your assessment tasks meet these challenges?