09 SES 13 C, Current Issues in Developing Assessments
Parallel Paper Session
Since for many people, education and workplaces in the 21st Century have become international, multicultural and inter-connected, new skills are needed for progression (Silva, 2009). Although conceptualisations of ‘21st Century’ skills are many and varied, most include critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, information literacy, and life skills (ATC21S, 2011). Moreover, self-directed study skills, intellectual curiosity, and independent research skills are also valued highly in academic courses within European and many other universities, where freedom of intellectual endeavor is often a fundamental value.
To support the development of skills of this kind among 16 to 19 year olds, diverse educational approaches have been advocated. Some educationalists prefer to embed skills development within lessons in traditional school subjects, such as mathematics and history. An alternative approach, which is currently popular in the UK, is to provide opportunities for project work with a specific focus on independent research and inquiry. In addition to developing skills, research projects provide students with opportunities to investigate a specialist area of study in greater depth, to cross boundaries with an inter-disciplinary enquiry, or to explore a novel non-school subject such as archaeology or cosmology. The resulting reports are often more substantial than those written within subject-based lessons; some are 5000 words long. When applying to university, students can use project reports to demonstrate motivation for their intended course of study and to distinguish themselves from competing applicants.
This paper has two main objectives. The first is to provide an overview of some major forms of independent research carried out by 16 to 19 year olds in the UK and internationally. We conduct a more detailed comparison of two forms: the Extended Project Qualification, available in the UK, and the Extended Essay that forms a compulsory component of the International Baccalaureate Diploma. The significant differences in their aims, structures, scopes, and assessments are not widely understood. It is important for students and teachers to be conscious of the differences in order to make informed decisions about what is most suitable for them. University admissions tutors and employers also need to understand the differences in order to weigh up the experiences and achievements of applicants fairly.
The paper’s second objective is to explore the concerns that surround the assessment of research projects. Previous research indicates that assessors find it much harder to agree on the merits of long pieces of extended prose than on short responses to examination questions (Black, Suto and Bramley, 2011). To answer the question of why it is so difficult to assess research reports, we present a new model of the challenges facing teachers and external assessors. The model draws upon theory conceptualising assessment accuracy as the product of two main factors: (i) the demands of the assessment task, and (ii) the personal expertise of the assessor (Suto and Nádas, 2008). This application of an established theoretical perspective to a topic in popular discourse aims to clarify where and how the assessment of research projects can be improved.
Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) (2012) Official website. http://atc21s.org. Black, B., Suto, I. & Bramley, T. (2011) The interrelations of features of questions, mark schemes and examinee responses and their impact upon marker agreement. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 18:3, 295-318 Bloom, B.S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H. & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals; Handbook I: Cognitive Domain (London: Longman). Hungarian Ministry of Education (2012). Detailed requirements for the middle and higher level final school examinations in Hungarian language and literature. http://www.oh.gov.hu/letolt/okev/doc/erettsegi_40_2002_201201/magyar_nyelv_es_irodalom_vk.pdf Laming, D. (2004) Human judgement: The eye of the beholder. London: Thomson. Lisbon Council (2007) Skills for the future. Brussels: Lisbon Council. Silva, E. (2009) Measuring skills for 21st-century learning. Phi Delta Kappa, 90 (09), 630-634. Suto, W.M.I. & Nádas, R. (2008) What determines GCSE marking accuracy? An exploration of expertise among maths and physics markers. Research Papers in Education, 23(4), 477-497. Wenger, E. (2011) Communities of Practice [online] Available at: www.ewenger.com Accessed on 26 January 2012.
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