Views from the UK

Although the educational assessment landscape in the USA is very different, some similar perspectives can be identified dating back to the 1990s. For example, Linn et al. (1991) noted a shift in assessment policy towards direct assessment of complex performances using open-ended problems, essays, and portfolios rather than the conventional objective formats used in the USA. They identified the lack of correspondence between learning goals and indicators of achievement as an increasingly important concern for traditional tests of achievement, and cited this as the motivation behind calls for “authentic assessment.”

Wiggins and McTighe (1998) proposed a set of tools to make the selection of curriculum priorities more likely to happen by design than by “good fortune” and suggested a “backwards design” model for using assessment to drive curricula and learning.

This debate about the alignment of learning and assessment can also be linked to the discussions of test washback and impacts that were emerging in the field of language assessment at the same time (Cheng & Watanabe, 2004). Brown and Hudson (1998), for example, considered the impact of external assessments on classroom practice and associated negative washback with large-scale (standardized) testing. They listed a range of possible “alternative assessment procedures” that might have more positive effects, including checklists, journals, logs, videotapes and audiotapes, teacher observations, portfolios, conferences, diaries, self- assessments, and peer-assessments.

The extensive work of Pellegrino et al. (2001) on Knowing What Students Know is important in this context as it introduced “design thinking” into educational assessment, focusing particularly on learner cognition and metacognition. The authors recognized the value of large- scale assessment systems but suggested that classroom-based practices yield rich information about learners’ knowledge that can only be captured in this way. They were among the first to highlight the potential of technology and suggested that technology-based learning environments can enable teachers to capture performance and track learning progression. This is an important point noted above that we will return to later.

The aim of measuring competence through authentic tasks is also associated with criterion-referenced standards and the work of Shepard (2000). Shepard (2000) was critical of managerial uses of assessment to “drive up standards” (in a similar way to the ARG in the UK), and she identified the need for a paradigm shift in conceptions of assessment. In her view, the prevalent assessment regimes reflected outworn beliefs about education in society, cognition, and the nature of learning itself. She used CBA to advance a social-constructivist framework, stressing that “a singularly important idea in this new paradigm is that both development and learning are primarily social processes” (p. 7; see also Shepard, 2006, 2008).

Lynch’s (2001) discussion of alternative assessment extended conceptions of assessment to include a wider range of activities related to concerns for social justice and equality. He was concerned to integrate validity with ethical considerations that consciously addressed the power relations that are at play in assessment contexts. He linked these ethical concerns to Messick’s (1989) “consequential validity” and to the value implications and social consequences of test interpretation and use raised by the critical language testers (e.g., Shohamy, 1998). Moss (2003) has also been influential in reconceptualizing validity for classroom assessment, and her specific emphasis on the social dimensions of assessment is particularly relevant to this discussion. (See also Brookhart, 2003 on “classroom feedback”)

Views from Asia-Pacific

In other parts of the world, a focus on the role of the teacher emerged as a central issue in teacher-based and school-based assessment, especially in the context of major assessment reform programs (e.g., Davison, 2007).

Davison and Leung (2009) present TBA as a policy-supported practice in a number of educational systems, including Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. These developments aimed at giving teachers an important role in assessing learning objectives, which, it was argued, could not be assessed in the existing public examinations while at the same time enhancing teaching and learning. This represented a shift from norm-referenced external examinations towards a learner-centered, TBA approach (see also Carless, 2007,2009; Cheah, 1998; Davison & Hamp-Lyons, 2009; Withers, 1987). Such projects, in redefining the role of teachers, entailed a considerable retraining requirement. For example, Brindley (2001) proposed practical and professional approaches to achieving this in Australia (cf. “assessment literacy” discussed in the concluding section of this chapter).

The work of Boud has been influential in rethinking the role of assessment in higher education and in recognizing that learning is a lifelong process extending beyond formal education. This is particularly true of language learning, and so understanding what forms of assessment can be supportive and foster better learning in these contexts is an important consideration in developing the systemic concept of LOA. Boud discusses sustainable assessment that he claims must equip students with skills to continue learning ‘“beyond the academy” once the formal infrastructure of teachers, courses, and formal assessment is no longer available. Such skills concern the ability to learn continuously through participating in social activity, particularly in the workplace (Boud, 2000; Boud & Falchikov, 2006).

The work of Carless (2007, 2009) and Mok (2009) in Hong Kong is particularly relevant to the emergence of the terminology itself that has become associated with LOA (see further discussion below).

It can be concluded from these views that TBA and large-scale assessments are both necessary in educational systems and need to be aligned in convergent ways to prevent negative impacts. This conclusion backs up the call for a comprehensive model that helps policymakers and practitioners understand the complex interrelations between teaching, learning, and assessment and seeks to align large-scale and classroom-based assessments in a systemic way (Jones, 2014; Jones & Saville, 2016; Jones et al., 2013).

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