Assessments 2020: Top trends that will revolutionise testing

A student’s life is filled with assessments: quizzes, midterm, finals, board exams and so on in an endless cycle that puts a huge amount of pressure on both the student and the teacher. We all know that data-driven decisions are crucial to reform in the education system. So how are we going to measure student skills in the coming decade? In a world with limited resources, what kind of data should we prioritise?

Key players in the assessments industry have been rethinking what a classic exam should look like and how it can be used. You can say goodbye to the old regime and welcome an exciting new era of data that actually works to improve learning outcomes. Here are the next big things to watch out for in education and skills testing.

Nurturing 21st Century Skills

Think back to the last exam you can remember taking. What kind of knowledge did you need to ace the test? Maybe you had to read and interpret a passage, or perform some algebraic calculations. But the skills you likely use every day and the skills most important to employers and entrepreneurs in the new workplace are often different. Assessments innovators are investigating how we can measure deeper aptitudes like teamwork, critical thinking, confidence, adaptability, creativity and taking initiative.

Current models only account for a sliver of the capacities that are valuable to an individual as they try to tackle the problems of life, but change is on the horizon. Social-emotional testing models are being explored and new tools that focus on critical thinking are gaining popularity fast.

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Technology

Artificial intelligence is becoming an increasingly important tool to individually tailor assessment experience for students. Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) has already been adopted by the GMAT and is set to take the rest of the assessments world by storm. Automated scoring enabled by AI also has the potential to reduce the burden of grading papers on teachers, freeing up more time for them to focus on teaching and pedagogy.

Further into the future we can look forward to AI’s role in predictive modeling. Currently, an assessment can tell you what a student’s aptitudes are at a given point in time, but assessments that can predict future growth are in the works. We still have a long way to go before data modelling becomes advanced enough to deliver sufficiently accurate predictions and there are ethical considerations that need to be untangled as well. Despite that, the potential it has for laser-focused education interventions is transformational.

Instead of teaching to the test, use testing to teach

At the end of an academic year, teachers hand back graded tests to show students how they’ve done. Those scores are shown to parents and schools to validate how ‘skilled’ a student is based on what they got and then the papers are shoved into a drawer somewhere.

Validating, or proving skill level, is one use that assessments can have. Another is that if teachers are able to receive student learning feedback in real time, they can use that information to improve and adjust teaching at a classroom level. The Assessment for Learning Project is trying to change common knowledge on what tests are for and integrated learning platforms like IMAX are beginning to probe the waters with software solutions.

Over emphasising scores and exams puts intense pressure on students while crushing the inherent joy of learning. At the same time, data has never been more critical to address the education crisis that India is facing. We’re going to need the best minds in policy to innovate on how data can be collected and used, not just as a burden to teachers and students, but as a pillar of support.