Unlocking the potential of technology for authentic assessment for learning

During last week’s Media and Learning conference in Brussels I attended an interesting session of Manuel Frutos-Perez, the Director of Learning Enhancement of the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, University of the West of England.

In this faculty they implemented a large-scale implementation (involving 900 students) of the use of video-recordings of own performances, in combination with role-play to situate and make the formative assessment more authentic (in a small group of 3/4, each student playing a different role). First year students had to record two of their own performances in a role play and subsequently reflect on them. They were peer-assessed on their ability to reflect on the performance (not on the performance itself), as reflection skills are seen as important professional skills that have to be trained too. The ideas behind this implementation reminded me a lot about the ideas behind CEFcult, where learners’ performances of professional intercultural (oral) communicative skills where triggered by a task, subsequently recorded and then (self-and/or peer) reflected upon with the help of two existing scales (INCA for intercultural skills and CEF-R for language skills), thus generating feedback and suggestions on how to improve their intercultural oral communicative skills.
Looking at the role of technology to enhance assessment Manuel mentioned 3 assets (that I complemented a bit), namely that technology can:

  1. Help to situate the experience of assessment
  2. Enable active participation and collaboration of different actors (eventually across time and space)
  3. Facilitate manipulation of work: reuse, redraft and review

I think technology, in this and other cases may additionally also facilitate:

  1. Comparison of own performance with other examples (e.g. a video-recorded (good or bad) example role model) or information (e.g. means of groups)
  2. Mirroring a learners’ own video-recorded performance ‘objectively’
  3. Supporting, personalizing, summarizing, and visualizing feedback from different actors
  4. Annotating performances, eventually with the help of a format like a rubric (“mechanism for judging the quality of a students’ performance on a task”, adapted from Arter & Chappuis, 2006)
  5. Building a portfolio of assessed performances over time, tracking and displaying growth of a learner
  6. Tracking learners’ interactions and relating them to learning objectives

Manuel pointed out that if you want to use technology at a large scale, there are various implementation issues that you have to take care of, such as logistics and making interaction with technology as intuitive and accessible as possible. This is something that shouldn’t be underestimated, as it really influences the uptake of your initiative.

Some of the reactions of staff and students were: “it gives them a unique position to reflect on their strengths and developmental needs (staff)”. “[you are] removed from your comfort zone – great preparation for the reality of nursing (student)” and “easy to pin point negative and positive points, therefore effective reflecting tool (student)”.  Looking at these reactions (and other results in the presentation) it seems that they indeed managed to successfully unlock the potential of technology to support and enhance learners’ learning and reflection process on their professional skills.

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