In 2023, assessment saw many new and persistent trends. From the rise of AI into the mainstream consciousness and the questions it raised around assessment, to the announcement of exam boards like OCR offering the first GCSE with fully digital exams, there was much to digest and adapt to.
We believe 2024 is going to be another year for innovation in assessment and throughout the year we will see many developments in the field, however, the key assessment principles for practitioners will remain as significant as ever.
To start the year, the Assessment Network team has asked experts from across our community to share their predictions on some of the key trends which will likely appear or develop in assessment in 2024.
AI and Assessment
Dr Simon Child, Head of Assessment Training, The Assessment Network.
The groundswell of AI-based teaching, learning and assessment apps witnessed in 2023 will be slowly refined over time, as the education 'market' develops more consensus on which apps are most useful. Some apps will emerge as 'must haves' while others will fall away like Lycos, Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves and other search engines did when Google began to break through in the early 2000s.
One area that I am personally hoping to contribute towards is developing the capacity of teachers and other educators to base their judgements on applying AI technologies on assessment best practices.
I think that 2024 will see a transition from 'experimentation and exploration' with AI to more large-scale applications, for example with marking of extended writing. It might be too soon at this stage to truly trust AI with these tasks, but I expect the research outcomes will come flooding in this year to contribute to the debate.
I also predict, in the Higher Education space, more consensus around how to best adapt to the challenges presented to traditional assessment models. A recent article from Advance HE spoke of making a transition from 'AI resilient' assessments to 'AI-proof' assessments. This might result in much more specific or contextually-bound course assessment tasks, supported by advancing software that detects AI-generated student responses."
AI in the classroom
James Beadle, Senior Professional Development Manager, The Assessment Network.
In 2023, AI was one of the dominant trends in education and assessment, covering such topics as automated marking and how to manage the use of generative language models (such as ChatGTP) by students.
In 2024, I predict that the focus on AI will continue, but will increasingly shift from high-stakes assessments to instead look at how it be used within the classroom by teachers on a day-to-day basis. Many practitioners are already using AI to write lesson plans, design, and even mark assessments, and as is often the case, teachers are at the forefront in having to adapt to a rapidly shifting educational landscape.
AI potentially can offer major benefits in minimising both teacher workload and delivering quick, personalised feedback to learners: however this does come with its own risks and teachers increasingly need to be able to make informed decisions as to how and why they use these platforms effectively and ethically."
Sarah Hughes, Research & Thought Leadership Lead at Cambridge International and Dr Irenka Suto, Head of Assessment at CEM.
Holistic Assessment is set to be an assessment trend in 2024 (and beyond).
The need for a broader approach to assessment (as well as education more generally) which encompasses the whole learner is indicated in our recent work: The Futures of Assessment. That research signalled key drivers for change: climate change as a continued threat, the potential impact of student mental health on learning, and emerging technologies which require new ways of engaging with assessment.
All these challenges are broad and wide; they affect the whole learner, the whole school and some of them the whole globe!
A new Holistic Assessment Special Interest Group was launched in at the AEA-E conference in late 2023 with a focus on Holistic Assessment. The Group understands that:
To succeed in the modern society, including in the workplace, young people need to complete their education with more than the academic knowledge, skills and understanding assessed in traditional school subjects. They need a broad range of 21st century competencies coupled with other personal attributes such as solid ethical values, positive learning dispositions, and high levels of personal wellbeing.
Traditionally, cognitive skills and domain knowledge have been prioritised in our school assessments, particularly high stakes exams. Recent work at Cambridge broadens this out to recognise five interacting areas which contribute to learners’ educational success. These include and go beyond cognitive skills and domain knowledge to include cross-curricular knowledge, skills and understanding, personal attributes (including wellbeing and emotional intelligence) and the teaching and learning environment. We already provide assessments in these areas, for example IGCSEs, the Cambridge wellbeing check, Cambridge English tests, and the Cambridge personal Styles Questionnaire.
This emphasis on holistic assessment is likely to grow, starting in 2024: schools will be able to get a broader view of wider aspects of their learners and be better able to support learners in domains other than the cognitive and academic and so supporting the whole learner."
Dr Martina Kuvalja, Senior Researcher, Digital Assessment & Evaluation, Cambridge International.
As we navigate post-lockdown life, the return to normalcy proves elusive. School attendance remains low and the number of approved special access arrangements keeps increasing. This situation prompts serious conversations about the substantial impact of the current high-stakes assessments on the well-being of learners. Special education needs, disabilities, and the burgeoning 'climate anxiety' add layers of vulnerability.
The ongoing crisis in learner well-being will become a focal point, igniting conversations about alternatives to conventional high-stakes assessments.
Envisaged trends in 2024 point towards a transition to assessments seamlessly woven into teaching and learning processes, aligning with students readiness, rather than adhering to rigid annual cycles. Traditional pen-and-paper exams now face heightened scrutiny due to these concerns.
We envisage the spotlight in 2024 on continuous and collaborative assessment, driven by a desire to alleviate anxiety and capture more authentic knowledge and skills. This trend aligns with the transformative future envisioned for educational assessments, where learner well-being takes precedence, and assessment models dynamically evolve to meet students' diverse needs. We predict serious discussions around holistic, continuous, adaptive, and climate-resilient assessment methods, which emphasise prioritising the well-being of learners."
EDIB in Assessment
Hannah Williams, Professional Development Projects Specialist, The Assessment Network.
From Black Lives Matter protests to the Me Too movement, from Pride marches to the Sunflower lanyard campaign, increasing awareness around issues of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) has become ever more important in all spheres of our lives.
A person’s identity and positionality affect how they experience the world and other people in it every day. In real terms, these issues are central to the core assessment principles of validity, reliability and fairness and have direct consequences for student assessment outcomes.
As Dr Sally Everett discussed in our workshop on this topic last May:
It has been said that assessments can be pedagogical tools of exclusion, as they privilege and teach the value of certain knowledge systems, abilities, behaviours, and skills over others.
Although there has been significant attention placed on adopting universal design principles there is little published practical guidance on how assessment practices can be developed and designed to reflect broader social justice issues.
Assessment organisations and others will in 2024 be developing their expertise in these issues and responding to these significant challenges. While fairness and bias have long been issues we’ve carefully considered in developing our exams, reframing these through the EDIB lens will ensure we continue to create high-quality assessments that deliver for students."
If you're interested in developing your assessment practice and navigating these trends with Cambridge expertise in 2024 you can view the latest CPD opportunities from The Assessment Network.
The Assessment Network is part of Cambridge University Press & Assessment. We provide professional development for impactful assessment.