Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Technologies for learning assessment


Much has been said and written about the impact of the use of technology in education. From the most ardent supporters, who rely heavily on technology and its revolutionary potential, raise the point that computers would be enough to drop from helicopters into the villages to see how children become learners themselves wise, without schools or teachers, to those who dismiss any impact, and would do without technology in schools, to safeguard the traditional space away from the "noise" that they introduce interested.

In my particular experience, education technologies are both inevitable presence (students already live and grow in a technological world, and is part of their cognitive repretorio) and a tremendous opportunity for disruption, change outdated practices and vices acquired by our educational systems. Maybe if the most important of them, having forgotten that the center of the educational process in students, in each one of them.



This means taking advantage of the opportunities that technology offers for changing educational practices, to provide new learning experience, based on the effective management of the evidence and data, focusing on each student's learning, therefore, highly personalized, and more focused on developing skills to search, select, process, construct and communicate knowledge, that the simple transmission of a predefined curriculum.

The second area of ​​education where the incorporation of technology can and should play an important role is in the measurement of educational outcomes and ultimately the quality of learning.

The measurement of educational outcomes in schools and school systems often has become a problem for education authorities worldwide. The making of rankings, and use the results to describe the good or bad schools, good or bad teachers and even the country's progress on educational quality, has put a warning sign on the true scope and limitations of the measuring programs.


Beyond the technical construction of measuring instruments, it is clear that you can not judge the overall quality of an education system, a school or a teacher in particular, from the results of standardized tests, which by definition and implementation constraints, are usually restricted to the measurement of content and specific skills (usually in math, language, and sometimes science) in some cohorts, and therefore can not account for the complexity of educational outcomes, much less the conditions under which they are produced.

Assessment in education is never an isolated judgment on the ultimate impact of a process, but essentially an input. Educational evaluation aims to provide feedback on the educational progress, so that those who must make decisions in the classroom, the school or the education system, have solid evidence to support the actions to take.


Evaluates to learn, not to apply rewards and punishments. Evaluation in education has to be always formative, and therefore, provide data and evidence to support decision making in favor of quality.

Each actor has the appropriate information for decisions to be taken at their level, should be a key requirement of educational assessment systems. What good would knowing a score or a result, if your analysis does not reveal what it is doing right and wrong, what are the spaces where there should be improvements. This implies that authorities, school administrators, teachers, students and families should have access to relevant information on the results, so to support their decisions and responsibilities, and above all, to strengthen the partnership between all actors to enter changes as necessary.


Educational evaluation is also a strong signal about what the system expects from schools and their actors. Measuring only a few disciplines, using standardized test is an indicator so powerful, that it has ordered schools to focus their time and resources on it. To put it in the language of neuroscience, this type of test is measuring what happens in a very small portion of the left side of our brain, and completely leaving aside the rest of our abilities. If, however, the educational evaluation was more connected to the needs of the knowledge society, with the skills required for good performance and integration in it, as they consider a wider range of areas and skills, would also provide an important signal of integrality, diversity valuation of available talent among students.

If for a long time measurement systems have been severely limited, first, by the high costs associated with their implementation, and secondly, by the resistance of the education system and its actors, associated with the use that is made of educational measurement, can technology help overcome these fundamental difficulties?

It seems to me that, as in the development of new educational practices for learning, educational measurement has a huge opportunity to become more complete and better thanks to the availability of technology in schools and education systems and is essential task education authorities to advance this agenda.




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