Seeing The Changes Ahead For Educational Assessments
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The Future And Changes Of Educational Assessments

When you think of the future of education, you may not immediately think of the future of testing and assessment, or even that assessment has a future that’s much different than what it is today. Testing, you may think, is about asking questions and grading or evaluating answers, what’s going to change about that?

In June, some of the world’s leading experts in testing, test design, data, and psychology, will meet in Minneapolis for the conference of the International Association For Computerized Adaptive Testing (IACAT). And according to them, testing not only has a future, but it’s also probably not what you expect at all.

Here are 4 plus 1 things about educational assessment that experts say we should expect in the future:

1. Adaptive

Adaptive testing is where a computer selects the next question based on how a test-taker answered the preceding one. The idea has been around since at least the 1970s, pioneered by Dr. David Weiss at the University Of Minnesota psychology department. And even though it’s in use in some academic settings such as GMAT, it has not caught on everywhere yet.

But, the experts say, it will catch on because adaptive testing methods make testing not only more efficient but also more accurate. An adaptive test can, for example, provide a highly accurate assessment in 12 questions instead of 50, cutting down time for test-taking and test-grading.

2. AI-Driven

Along with computer-driven and adaptive testing, the IACAT experts say Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning will soon power most school, academic and other assessments.

Soon, they say, not only will a computer know which questions should go in the best order for an individual test-taker, but information about how that question is answered will allow the computer to pinpoint the best questions that most accurately reflect skills or knowledge. As more students take adaptive, AI tests, the test will get better and better and more and more accurate.

3. Psychometrics

As AI allows an assessment to get better, smarter results will show not just what someone knows but traits about their learning itself. In the near future, computers will record not just answers but how long a response takes, whether an answer was changed, and they will be able to deduce whether a test-taker knew an answer from memory or worked the problem out during the tests.

Those types of insights, known as psychometrics, are already possible, but further development will allow assessment designers to test for softer skills and traits such as creativity, problem solving and resilience.

4. Performance/Life-Long Assessment

As teaching moves in the direction of digital, with more classroom resources and assignments on servers and laptops, the assessment will not only follow, it will become integrated, creating a seamless blend of teaching and assessment in real time.

“In maybe 20 years,” Dr. Weiss, the founder of adaptive assessment, said, “testing will become more authentic. Rather than asking multiple choice questions to test knowledge after the learning, we will assess knowledge by looking at how they perform in a unified education environment. Everything a student does should be, could be, used as an assessment.”

As that happens, an assessment will include hundreds of thousands of data points instead of the 50 or 100 answers to test questions. “We will know,” Weiss said, “how a student will perform before we even start a test. Most teachers already do, and for the same reasons, they have lots and lots of data from that student.”

It's the end of the standardized test: as those assessment changes take hold, adaptive, AI, performance-based, it may spell the end of the standardized test. In fact, a test in which every student gets the same set of questions and the same amount of time to answer may be finished outright. The experts say there’s already no need for those types of tests because existing methods and technologies can already deliver and score assessments more accurately and more quickly.

But even beyond that, the experts making the systems and the AI platforms that will run the tests of tomorrow say that not only will tomorrow’s tests not look like the ones we give and grade today, but that they are likely to tell us things we never even knew we could know. Future tests will show not just whether Billy or Jane understands the concepts of the American Revolution but why they do or do not. And future tests will also help us assess the way we teach those concepts and measure everything about teaching and learning at the same time.

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