Context: Research


The Tomlinson Report (DfES, 2004) and the Intel, Microsoft and Cisco Education Taskforce (2009) state educational systems today are at odds with the skills and attributes required for the future. The Taskforce recommend that “assessments should engage students in the use of technology and digital resources and the application of a deep understanding of subject knowledge to solve complex, real world tasks and create new ideas, content and knowledge”. Similarly, the Re-engineering Assessment Practices (2007) project found students’ capacity to self-assess, reflect, and actively manage their own learning to be poorly developed even though they are highly valued skills in the workplace.

The Wood Commission Interim Report (Wood, 2013) recommended that “schools and colleges must focus more on their responsibilities to prepare young people for work”. This is explicit in the Regional Outcome Agreement (SFC, 2013), which commits CoGC to delivering the right learning to develop a workforce of the future. Integral to this is delivering the right assessment: assessment which develops and evidences the skills required by industry.

The college has embraced a number of e-assessment options to date, including use of SOLAR, e-Portfolios and the VLE. Initial research shows that although there are pockets of excellent practice across the college, e-assessment has not yet been widely adopted, and appears (from this limited initial research) to focus on traditional assessment utilising digital tools, rather than re-designing learning and assessment.

This is reflected across the sector despite explicit reference to the use of ICT, e-learning and assessment technology in the Professional Standards for Lecturers. The ETNA 2012 report (McLaughlin et al., 2013) into the skills and attitudes to ICT in Scottish FE has identified limited use of VLE and e-Assessment tools across the sector.  Teaching staff also noted that students did not always engage well with these tools, despite their potential to enhance the learning and teaching experience. The report recommends further development, research and support in this area. It also identifies specialised training needs for teaching staff in:

  • E-Assessment.
  • E-Portfolios.
  • Use of the VLE.

Nationally, Jisc (2013) reports that despite existing examples of effective practice “many institutions have yet to put in place well-embedded, supported and sustainable technology-enhanced assessment and feedback practice”.

Jisc Assessment and Feedback Programme

The JISC-funded Assessment and Feedback programme is focused on supporting large-scale changes in assessment and feedback practice, supported by technology, with the aim of enhancing the learning and teaching process and delivering efficiencies and quality improvements.

Synthesis report:  ‘Supporting assessment and feedback practice with technology: from tinkering to transformation’ (October, 2013).

Jisc Guides

  • Electronic Assessment Management (EAM): “research shows an overall student preference for EMA and reveals that few need training to support its introduction”; “Implementation requires careful planning to ensure all of the right pieces, relating to people, processes and technology infrastructure, are in place.”
  • Feedback and feed forward: “embedding peer practices in curricula may be the single factor that will make the biggest difference to student learning”
  • Changing assessment and feedback practice with the help of technology: “A review of the assessment and feedback landscape in 2012 (pdf) revealed that this is an area where traditional practices predominate and remain ‘stubbornly resistant to change’. With students expressing less satisfaction with assessment and feedback than with any other aspect of their learning experience, change is both desirable and necessary in many areas.”; “there is a growing body of evidence that highlights the active engagement of learners in assessment and feedback as the critical factor in enhancing learning”
  • Enhancing student employability through technology supported assessment and feedback: “an effective combination of self-reflection and peer review may make the biggest difference to student learning and employability”; “good assessment and feedback practice is inherently linked to developing competencies needed in the world of work”; “the types of activities and behaviours that promote assessment for learning are very much the same as those that promote good employability outcomes”
  • Effective assessment in a digital age: “Assessment lies at the heart of the learning experience: how learners are assessed shapes their understanding of the curriculum and determines their ability to progress. At the same time, assessment and feedback form a significant part of practitioners’ workloads and, with increased numbers, reduced budgets and higher learner expectations, continue to be a matter of concern for many institutions. What contribution can technology make to ensuring that assessment and feedback processes are agile, streamlined and capable of promoting high-quality learning? Effective Assessment in a Digital Age draws on recent JISC reports and case studies depicting different contexts and modes of learning to explore the relationship between technologyenabled assessment and feedback practices and meaningful, well-supported learning experiences.”

Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges

Indictative content for evidencing the assessment standard includes:

• the development and use of ICT, e-learning and assessment technologies

Full paper here:

External quality arrangements for Scotland’s colleges 2013 (Details)

5.4 Assessment for learning

 Planning and scheduling of assessment
 Methods of providing feedback and encouraging reflection on progress
 Assessment to promote learning and affirm achievement
 Arrangements for learners with additional support needs

How well is assessment used to promote effective learning?

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