IV Anticipating the futureAssessment for learning and the digital revolution

The last Part of this book strikes a more positive note. It addresses the third of the goals of this collection which were identified in the introduction - to illustrate bow potentially profound the impact of the digital revolution might be for future developments in assessment practice and the fundamental changes in its social role to which this might lead. Chapter 11 argues that, at the time of writing, there had been a hardening, rather than any resolution, of the many negative effects of assessment on society. However, in looking ahead, it speculates that there may be a shift in the ‘normal’ science of assessment in which the ‘tidal wave of targets and accountability’ is reduced in favour of the development of assessment for learning.

Chapter 12 takes up this narrative in an exploration of the rationale of assessment for learning. In contrasting the purposes and practices of summative assessment with those of formative assessment, the chapter explores the potential of this very different approach to the purpose and conduct of assessment. The idea of harnessing the power of assessment to promote learning has prompted widespread international interest in the potentially positive use of assessment to support, rather than simply to ‘measure’ learning. From a sociological point of view, however, it is important to sustain the goal of understanding why such changes of emphasis may be coming about and what their likely impact will be in the long history of the relationship between educational assessment and society.

The final chapter in this Part is also the most recent. It engages explicitly with the potential of technology to facilitate radically different ways both to collect and use evidence about individual performance. Already there are signs of the significant impact such new ‘affordances’ are likely to provide in a number of different ways. These include both the possibility of more personalised, timely and comprehensive approaches to recording performance as well as the potential for assessment to play a much more significant part in supporting learning itself. However, such developments are not detached from the social setting in which they take place. Thus, as well as exploring the opportunities that such developments potentially offer, the chapter also discusses the challenges and risks embedded in such new assessment technologies, since they cannot be divorced from the complex currents of power and policy that shape the social role of educational assessment.

11. Enter the ‘assessment society’: international trends and future challenges

Broadfoot, P. and Black, P. (2004) ‘Redefining assessment?’ The first ten years of Assessment in Education’, Assessment in Education Vol. 11, No. l,pp. 7-29.

12. Challenging the status quo: the potential of assessment for learning

Broadfoot, P. (2007) An Introduction to Assessment. London: Continuum, chapter 10, pp. 109-113.

13. Towards an assessment revolution? The potentially transforming potential of computer-based assessment

Timmis, S., Broadfoot, P, Sutherland, R. and Oldfield, A. (2016) ‘Rethinking assessment in a digital age: opportunities, challenges and risks’, British Educational Research JournalVol. 42, No. 3, pp. 454-476.

Enter the ‘assessment society’: International trends and future challenges

Broadfoot, P. and Black, P. (2004) ‘Redefining assessmentThe first ten years of Assessment in Education’, Assessment in Education Vol. 11, No. l,pp. 7-29.

The completion of the first ten years of this journal is an occasion for review and reflection. The main issues that have been addressed over the ten years are summarized in four main sections: Purposes, International Trends, Quality Concerns and Assessment for Learning. Each of these illustrates the underlying significance of the themes of principles, policy and practice, which the journal highlights in its subtitle. The many contributions to these themes that the journal has published illustrate the diversity and complex interactions of the issues. They also illustrate that, across the world, political and public pressures have had the effect of enhancing the dominance of assessment so that the decade has seen a hardening, rather than any resolution, of its many negative effects on society. A closing section looks ahead, arguing that there is a move to rethink more radically the practices and priorities of assessment if it is to respond to human needs, rather than to frustrate them.

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