Demand for 21st century skills, from critical thinking to collaboration, is driving assessment and education reform across the globe.

This fourth industrial revolution is due to the digital age we now live in, yet the use of modern technology is often not being harnessed to support these changes.  

Governments around the world are debating whether current education and assessment systems will be sufficient to equip their young people with the skills and knowledge needed in the future.  

So what are the main changes being planned? And what role can technology play in making these successful? 

Changes in how we see assessment

There has been a shift from seeing assessment as a judgement of what students can recall, to a tool to evaluate learning and feed-back into ongoing development. It is of little benefit to have students leave education with gaps in their knowledge, hence formative assessment has been growing in importance in many parts of the world, complementing summative end-point assessments.  

Changes to the format of assessments

The format of assessments is changing too. There is growing agreement, for example, that multiple-choice tests are often not adequate. While convenient in helping educators evaluate student retention information, this assessment type does not allow students to demonstrate their ability to solve problems, frame and conduct investigations, analyse and synthesise data or apply learning to new situations. 

In the language testing sector the role of the face-to-face conversational assessment is as critical as ever, because it allows for the assessment to be holistic and take all of the student’s skills into account – but this is hard to scale and so technology needs to help. 

How technology can improve assessment 

The use of technology has already improved assessment in some areas, for example e-marking allows awarding organisations to manage the marking of exams in a highly secure and efficient way. The use of e-marking platform RM Assessor has helped awarding organisations cut down the time to results issue, improve exam security and assure the quality of marking. Computer-based tests are enabling professional bodies to assess their members in more real-to-life ways that better reflect their working practices. 

There is now the potential for technology to revolutionise education and assessment altogether. Opportunities to assess 21st century skills might include group-based assessments, allowing access to the internet during exams or allowing individual students to take exams as and when they are ready. 

At RM Results we are working with our customers to explore the potential for technology to continue to improve assessment. So that every student can get the results they deserve. If you would like to find out more about the future of assessment technology, visit our Vimeo channel. 

This article was first published in Spanish in the Revista Semana Educación in December 2018.