I have been doing quite a bit of reading this week as part of our eassessment European project. I will write some of this up over the weekend. But first a more personal story about assessment.
Many years ago – 1971 to be exact – I went to Swansea University College. Of course, this was a time when students were very active – not just about bigger national and international campaigns – nut also about education. At that time, we were campaigning against mid first term exams – arguing that they have little relevance, given the short time students had been at university, they were unnecessarily stressful, and they wasted learning time through January – in fact they were a distraction from learning. Most departments in the University agreed and abolished these exams. However, two departments – Philosophy and Engineering refused and scheduled midterm exams for the 1922 – 1923 academic years. The students union called for a boycott of the exams and voted to picket outside the buildings they were taking place. A philosophy lecturer, Colwyn Williamson, supported the students and was subsequently suspended leading to a protracted dispute as students occupied the Registry – the main university administrative headquarters.
I can’t remember the final outcome but I think the midterm exams were quietly dropped and I thought the days of such ridiculous and pointless over assessment were long gone.
But my nephew has started university in Spain this year doing a degree in politics and law.
And guess what – he has spent all January swotting for first year high stakes midterm exams which he has to pass to continue on his course. Today he has gone to the third of his 2 – 3 hour written exams. All lectures and lessons have been cancelled because of the exams.
I don’t understand this obsession with high stakes examinations. I am all in favour of more formative testing to help learning. But this seems far from learning support – I would argue it only serves as a barrier to learning.
And that is why I have become interested in eAssessment – surely we can develop new approaches to assessment which support learners and learning processes and technology can help us with this.