Monday, May 18, 2015

Is this the start of the end of NAPLAN?

Does the Machine based scoring of Standardised testing signal the end of Single Point in time Standardised testing?

Late last month the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) General Manager, Dr Stanley Rabinowitz was quoted in an ITNews Article. He talked about the use of Cognitive Computing to assess the written English part of the NAPLAN tests which will be digitally delivered to students in 2017.

Although this move was opposed by English teachers around Australia I have been talking about this as the emerging and most transformative trend in technology as it fits into education.  

There has been very little real change driven by the huge deployment of technology into education over the last 10 - 15 years.  The reason for this is the quality of education is determined by testing which doesn't assess the competencies delivered by technology.  We don't assess ability to collaborate, create or research, from the myriad forms of information produced by students (and everyone else) or consumption patterns of data from digital sources, in any current assessment I am aware of.  

Although Dr Rabinowitz forecast the standardised test will continue and the change is primarily in the assessment regime.  I believe standardised testing should eventually be delivered as a micro test, a single part of the normal measurement of progress.  The test data can be passed instantly into the ACARA systems to produce a constant progress report on each student which is standardised across all schools.  In this situation the student's progress is constantly being measured against the international standards Governments are so worried about without interfering with teaching and learning as the NAPLAN currently does.

Of course this will disrupt the industry spawned by producing NAPLAN study guides.  

If the questions are digitally trickle fed into the ongoing assessment process, I don't see any opportunities existing for 'teaching to the test' which is one of the widely held concerns with the current NAPLAN system.  

The long term effects of utilising Cognitive Computing 

I can see some big changes flowing from the use of Cognitive Computing at a Government level, initially for assessing NAPLAN but, then for who knows what. 

If it works at this system wide level it will only be a short time before the technology becomes affordable at a school level and will be incorporated into school assessment systems so potentially in the future we will see a system where teachers teach and computer systems assess and analyse.  This would be the first real broad systemic change delivered by technology into education.