I want to start the year with a few short pieces on what my RM Studio team and I will be doing in 2022. We are all passionate about greatly improving education. This year will see many of our efforts leave the lab and start making a real difference in the world of education. We’re very excited to see what educators and students make with the product we’ve been building with them.
The way in which we award students’ grades hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. Multiple years of study lead to a single high-stakes exam, a handful of hours in which students must demonstrate that they have acquired the knowledge required to progress in their education or career by filling a few sides of paper.
Students may have been assessed constantly during their learning journey, but none of this will be taken into account for their final grade. All that counts is how they perform in their final exam. The exam format -a printed booklet of questions and another for written answers- is designed to optimise the process of marking in a world where the only technologies available were printing and handwriting implements.
This format is not great at reflecting a person’s understanding of any subject. It is such an artificial method that significant time must be invested in practice sessions during a student’s final year of study, reducing the time available to continue learning.
We can do better
The ongoing COVID emergency has forced the introduction of technology into the classroom. This technology makes it possible to keep a rich, constantly updated record of learning as it happens. This record should be used to provide a much more accurate reflection of a student’s knowledge. It can also inform how to adapt each individual’s teaching, maximising their potential to succeed.
Final exams and assessments may remain an important part of education. Where they do, we should look for inspiration on how to make them better for students and evaluators alike.
- If we remove the cost and complexity of printing and distributing tens of thousands of copies of the same paper, can we imagine a future where exams are taken when each individual student is ready, rather than on a set date for an entire country? Can we conceive of exams that adapt to how students respond to previous questions, offering a personalised path that maximises each student’s opportunity to demonstrate their true understanding of the subject?
- If we observe how personal communications have evolved, from handwritten letters when our current exam processes were designed, towards email and IM, through blogging, WhatsApp and Twitter to YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok: can we imagine a future where exams are as easy, engaging and rich as the free tools we all use to conduct casual conversations? These formats may not be easy to mark using an old-style rubric, but better alternatives such as my team’s own Comparative Judgement product RM Compare are readily available.
- How about taking inspiration from the many ways in which we track our exercise, sleep, money, etc to empower students and educators to use meaningful information to constantly improve their investment and outcomes in education?
Students and Educators deserve better
My team at RM Studio have been on a multi-year journey to imagine, prototype and iterate many innovations that will make assessment better for everyone involved. 2022 is the year these ideas will finally be ready to be shared with the world. We can’t wait to see how you will make assessment better with them.