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Assessment Blog

20th June 2022 | Research

How important is research in shaping the future of assessment?

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At RM, we believe innovation in assessment can transform educational outcomes. For innovation to become reality, we look to quality research as the foundation on which we build. As we build, research continues to underpin our design thinking. Market intelligence and customer partnerships allow for in-depth user research, that enables tailored digital solutions that meet the changing needs of both our customers and the market. 

Research is universally important for reasons including, but not limited to, continual learning, helping the understanding and awareness of issues, finding opportunities, and providing credibility. In education, we know that an individual’s learning journey will always be different from the person sat next to them, and therefore complex and personal. Research helps us to unlock, celebrate and begin to design for these differences.   

We are very excited to be sponsors of the Best Research Award for 2022 at the International e-Assessment Awards in June and would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the two finalists: Brightpath Assessment and Examity! This got us thinking…

How important is the role of research in the digital assessment space?

We posed this question to the two award finalists, the chair of the e-Assessment Association and the Propositions Director for Assessment at RM, and this is what they said: 

Sandra BrightPath AssessmentsSandra Heldsinger
Founder and Managing Director of Brightpath Assessment

“Allowing advances in technology to be the sole driver of advances in digital assessment is likely to do little to improve student learning. Such an approach could possibly even impede learning. This is because poor quality tools will produce poor quality evidence, which is a flawed basis for targeted teaching. To avoid falling into this trap, advances in psychometric research need to drive all our work in assessment, and when this is combined with innovative technologies something special happens. 

The Brightpath team thinks positive impact on student learning is the result of a number of related factors: research provides empirical and detailed descriptions of how learning develops; the assessment process means teachers accurately assess their students; and, technology makes it possible for teachers to immediately see what their students’ can do and what they need to learn next.” 

Mark ExamityMark Woodcock
International Director of Examity

It is very important because we feel that practitioner-led research is still nascent and often patchy in the digital assessment sector. We believe that evidence-based research is essential for better decision-making and better outcomes for all stakeholder groups such as (but not limited to): assessment candidates, assessment organisations, assessment regulators, and the communities that they serve at home or abroad. The challenges we foresee in this specific area are data reliability, relevance over time, consistency over time, inter-cooperation amongst competitors in the sector, validity and truth commonalities across customer groups as well as replicability of methods and recommendations. We feel that good and best practice require cooperation - and frequent cooperation - in order to plan for and deliver meaningful research goals that meet the needs of direct supply (digital assessment professionals) and demand (digital assessment candidates) in the sector wherever you are in the world.”

Tim Burnett Tim Burnett
Chair, e-Assessment Association

“For years we’ve been talking about digital assessment transformation. Some people have been listening, and others have had their heads in the sand, but the pandemic placed the topic squarely on everyone’s plates. This means that every organisation needs to take a moment to breathe and think seriously about its assessment strategy and how technology will play a part in its future. We need to understand the needs and pains, the form and function, the process and emotion and having good solid research from a range of experiences, both good and bad, is fundamental to getting it right. Over the years, organisations have been too guarded about sharing experiences, we need to lower our guard, open up more about our projects, learn from each other and collaborate more. Without accurate insights and reliable and honest research data, we’re going to be drawn back to our silos, and we’ll miss the opportunity we have to improve assessment for all.”

Rich Little (1)Richard Little
Propositions Director, RM

“The role of research in our industry is vital to validate new ideas and approaches to assessment, especially as we progress through the journey to digital assessment over time. Finding new way to do things is great, but we need the research to build confidence that the new ideas will drive the outcomes we want to support our candidates and students in their learning journey. I also think research is a great way to stimulate collaboration across multiple organisations in our sector. At RM, we know from our own work, that collaborating with others helps to bring a range of perspectives to the research that we do.” 

The verdict

We can see that the importance of research in digital assessment reverberates throughout the industry. In particular, the power that research has to validate ideas, extend possibilities in assessment when combined with innovative technologies, and ultimately drive a positive learner journey. 

Looking ahead, there is an emerging need for regular collaboration in industry research to provide a raw understanding of stakeholder and market needs and learn from these to optimise decisions and outcomes for education worldwide. 

Our latest research endeavour in this space is a joint project with International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA). The project explores the views and attitudes on the adoption of digital assessment and how these may have been influenced by COVID-19. 

As with most research projects, we have been left wanting to know even more. The role of research is never done, and nor are we. 

Explore our ongoing research project on comparative judgement in peer assessment.

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