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Jisc proposes targets on automated student assessments


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Universities and colleges need to aim to five targets and follow five principles as they make more use of automated assessment of students, according to a new report from Jisc.

The membership organisation for digital in higher education and research has highlighted the issue in The future of assessment, five principles, five targets for 2025, based on a meeting and series of interviews with experts in the sector.

The report says that existing and new technologies are beginning to play a role in assessment and could help to reduce the problems in the process, but that the trend is progressing slowing and that educational bodies should focus on the five principles. These involve making assessment more:

  • authentic in preparing the learner for what they do next and meeting employer needs;

  • accessible, so they are usable by everyone to the greatest possible extent;

  • appropriately automated, easing teachers’ marking and feedback workload while providing students with more detail;

  • continuous, to support lifelong learning;

  • and secure, to combat cheating by ensuring the right student is taking the right assessment and abiding by the rules.

“Taken together, these five principles, underpinned by enhanced digital skills, practices and confidence for staff, offer a holistic approach to more effective assessment that also drives learning, supporting students to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to direct their future work,” the report says.

The targets it sets for the next five years closely reflect the principles and are aimed at increasing the current pace of innovation.

It says that, while there has been progress automating student assessment, there is a need to increase the current pace of innovation and sets the five targets for the next five years to help achieve the transformation. They involve:

  • shifting the focus to acquiring transferable skills and assessing them in a more realistic way;

  • designing assessments on the principle of accessibility first;

  • finding a balance between automation and human marking and feedback;

  • using data and analytics to assess the effectiveness and impact of continuous assessment;

  • adopting authoring detection technology and biometric authentication to ensure security and detect cheating.

Underpinning all the targets is the need for a priority focus on staff digital skills development, allowing teachers more time to experiment and making them more confident in new approaches to assessment.

The report adds that assessment needs to be the subject of a large scale transformation, and that the starting point is for institutions to improve their data and systems infrastructure and work on improving their staffs’ skills with technology.

Jisc says it is going to work with its members on meeting the five targets.

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