Learning Assessments: Designing for the future

August 16-18 2015
Crown, Southbank, Melbourne

In opening the Learning Assessments: Designing our future 2015 ACER Research conference Prof Geoff Masters challenged us to think about the true purpose of assessment. The reason we assess should be to establish where a learner is in a particular aspect of their learning. Simple yet complex! In opening the conference Prof Masters invited us to look at assessment over the 2 days with this clarity of purpose.

The problem, Prof Masters proposed, is that assessment is all too often more about grading the output of learning than assessing the process of learning and the progress a learner is making in their learning. He urged us to consider what our students needed to know and understand about themselves, rather than what they needed to know and understand about a particular body of knowledge. This he claimed would better prepare our students for their future, one in which technology will significantly transform teaching and learning including assessments formats and the interpretation of assessments. Designing learning assessments for the future needs us to think differently about successful learning and what we can measure that indicates progress made. This requires teachers to meet individual learners at their point of learning need, we must therefore know our students well, monitor their learning closely and provide feedback on their learning that helps them to progress. This is not always easy in traditional forms of schooling which is organised to support more teacher centred approach than a student centred approach to learning.

Prof Masters went on to explain however, that in order to truly know where a learner is in their learning the teacher must have a deep understanding of the learning domain. They must for example, understand the sequencing of learning required, recognise when a learner is side tracked and needs to be supported to get back on track, and recognise the role of prerequisites. Pedagogical Content Knowledge!

This challenge at the beginning of our 2 day immersion in the current national and international research into learning assessments and consideration of what it takes to design learning assessment for the future, reminded us of the imperative for assessment to support individual student’s in their learning, rather than only the more political imperative of comparing and benchmarking school systems, schools, educators or individual learners themselves.