Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment

December 12, 2014

We are on the verge of big changes in assessment”, says new report by education experts.

Top performing countries have hit a ‘performance ceiling’ according to a new report released today.

'Preparing for a Renaissance in Assessment', published today by Pearson, and written by their chief education advisor, Sir Michael Barber, and renowned assessment expert, Dr Peter Hill, says that new technologies will transform assessment and testing in education.

According to the authors:

  • Adaptive testing (for example, tests that evolve in real time on screen) will help generate more accurate tests and reduce the amount of time schools spend on testing.
  • Smarter, automated marking of exams will help improve accuracy and reduce the time teachers spend marking “rote” answers.
  • Technology will help combine student performance across multiple papers and subjects.
  • Assessment will provide on-going feedback, which, will help personalise teaching and improve learning.
  • New digital technologies will minimise opportunities for cheating in exams or “gaming the system”.

The report argues that current assessment methods are no longer working, so that even the top performing education systems in the world, have hit a performance ceiling.

It concludes that governments, schools and those within them need to prepare themselves for this assessment renaissance.

Sir Michael Barber, chief education advisor at Pearson and co-author of the report said:

We are about to see big changes in the possibilities of assessment as a result of technology. Current assessment systems around the world are deeply wedded to traditional testing and exams and, some might argue, are holding us back from potential reforms. We should seize the opportunity and not cling to the past.
By using technology smartly, better assessment could improve teachers’ teaching, by giving them richer data. The biggest change created by the forthcoming assessment renaissance could be a vast improvement in teaching and therefore a big improvement in learner outcomes.

Dr Peter Hill, assessment expert and co-author of the report said:

This renaissance will bring about a ‘rebirth’ of the core purposes of assessment that will lead to a much better alignment with the curriculum and with teaching and learning.
Assessment is only one aspect of education but it is often one of the most influential and controversial and we believe that the transformation we want to see across education will be held up unless we release the power of assessment to bring about improvements in learning.

The report is available here.

About the authors

Sir Michael Barber joined Pearson in September 2011 as Chief Education Advisor, leading Pearson’s worldwide programme of efficacy and research. He plays a particular role in Pearson’s strategy for education in the developing world, and is Chairman of the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund. Prior to Pearson, he was a Partner at McKinsey & Company and Head of McKinsey’s global education practice. He holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Exeter and the University of Wales. He previously served the UK government as Head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit (from 2001-2005) and as Chief Adviser to the Secretary of State for Education on School Standards (from 1997-2001). Before joining government he was a professor at the Institute of Education at the University of London. He is the author of several books including Instruction to Deliver; Deliverology 101; The Learning Game: Arguments for an Education Revolution and The Making of the 1944 Education Act.

Dr Peter Hill has held senior positions in education in Australia, the USA and Hong Kong, including as Chief Executive of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board, Chief General Manager of the Department of School Education in Victoria, Australia, Professor of Leadership and Management at the University of Melbourne, Director of Research and Development at the National Center on Education and the Economy in Washington DC, Secretary General of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority and Chief Executive of the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.He is currently a consultant advising on system reform in the areas of curriculum, assessment and certification. He has published numerous research articles and co-authored with Michael Fullan and Carmel Crévola the award-winning book, Breakthrough, published by Corwin Press.