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 Thinking about trends in education….

What is my context?

Secondary school education, particularly senior secondary and looking at trends with a focus on what is likely to drive change in assessment practices. I have links to both the NZ and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi education systems. I haven’t yet decided whether I’m going to focus in on one of these or keep a more general perspective. To be determined….!

However, given the international world we live in and the way education is becoming increasingly more global, in the case of these two settings major trends influencing education that have relevance to assessment practices are the same.

It’s interesting to read both the Horizon reports and CORE Education’s top ten trends, as well as conduct a Google search into trends affecting education – it seems (as I guess would be expected or else they wouldn’t be trends!) that everyone is identifying the same key things. Narrowing it down to the two or three that seemed most relevant to the context I’m exploring was quite difficult as there is a lot of interrelatedness and intertwining! But here goes:

  • Personalisation of learning & learning pathways

As teachers become facilitators of learning and students take a more self-directed approach, it seems possible that assessment could / would / should follow suit. The issue of how to engage today’s learners and how to best educate them in today’s Knowledge Economy has been discussed for a long time now, with a more personalised approach to learning coming up as one possible solution. Also, there is an increased awareness in the need to develop certain skills and competencies in our youth, rather than fill them with information (which may have been appropriate in the Industrial Age but does not work in a world where Google instantly tells all). Thus, having a personalised ‘content’ curriculum, while fostering particular skills such as collaboration, networking and self-reflection, is becoming ever more useful. Technology is an aid to this in that it allows students around the world to connect with each other and essentially opens up the whole world within a classroom.

  • Shift in education paradigms to include blended learning and collaborative models + social learning and a blurring of the boundaries between formal and informal learning

Classrooms are no longer the 4-walled space they used to be, with technology being used in lessons in a variety of ways to enhance learning. Teachers are making use of web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis etc to build a community of collaboration within their classrooms and extend outwards to family, community and the world. Students are increasingly engaging in social learning tasks, both face-to-face and virtually, as well as conscious self-reflection. This reflection process may not even always be as a part of formal schooling, but could be informally, such as through a personal blog.  As Vygotsky’s theory of sociocultural learning details, this two part process of social interaction combined with intraflection is a key part of development.  I believe this shift in education paradigms could impact on assessment by influencing a similar shift in assessment paradigms, forcing us to reconsider our reasons for and ways of assessing.

  • Access – Open source software, web 2.0, BYOD, cloud storage, etc enabling ease of use and widespread accessibility

More and more schools are adopting a BYOD policy, working with collaborative online tools and making use of open source software, both within classrooms and for school admin. Large amounts of free ‘in the cloud’ storage is available to schools, as are a wide variety of free web-based tools (eg. Google sites).  This means that having technology as a key feature of any assessment program is much more viable and cost effective. Also, students can have access anytime, anywhere, meaning assessment no longer needs to be tied to a particular time or place.

What else could impact on assessment practices in the future?

  • If there is a continued move towards competencies and skills over content knowledge
  • Assessment for learning continues to grow, whereas assessment of learning is seen as no longer valuable
  • Student expectations of why they are learning, and why they are being assessed
  • Changes to tertiary sector assessment practices, as senior secondary may feel a need to move in a similar direction
  • Virtual & ubiquitous learning

 A final thought….

Given the length of time it takes to make widespread changes to assessment practices, perhaps it needs to be even more visionary and make forward-thinking, innovative change now, rather than following along behind, out of touch and out of date with the realities of those it seeks to assess.