Friday, 3 May 2013

Online NZQA Exams at anytime


NZQA Chief Executive Dr Karen Poutasi spoke at the SPANZ (Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand) Symposium 26 March 2013. Below is the transcript, though some thing to note: This is within the next eight years, Maths Common Assessment Tasks will likely be first. This is not just external assessment, it also will be for internal assessment. Also within 2-3 moderation will become more online. As I think about this I see one other thing, if all of this is going to happen, there will be no need for a time set aside at the end of the year for external assessments to take place. So does this mean that we will have senior students for an extra 6 weeks?

Future State Presentation to SPANZ - 26 March 2013

18 months ago NZQA embarked on the process of developing a vision for the organisation that would take us through the next 10 years. Our reasoning for this was based on the changing environment that is New Zealand in the 21st century. We wanted to think about what NZ Inc would want from us in 10 years time.

We have had to consider global trends and their impact on NZQA and the sector, changing sector expectations, and the way in which technology is both driving and supporting change. The net result of the work undertaken within the organisation has been the development of a project called Future State – a project with a 10 year horizon.

You will be very aware that NZQA works in both the senior secondary school space and the tertiary space and our Future State project has identified a number workstreams that cross over both sectors.

Assessment Workstream: The focus of this workstream is on extensive work with the long-term aim of providing on-line and on-demand assessment mechanisms for NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship. This workstream will involve both internal and external assessment and, given the direction of Youth Guarantee, may eventually cross over into the tertiary sector.

Quality Assurance Workstream: NZQA’s quality assurance (QA) has undergone extensive change, implementing an evaluative approach across the major areas of responsibility i.e. quality assurance of providers and qualifications. The Future State programme will concentrate on embedding and consolidating this change in quality assurance practice with a specific focus on continuous improvement.

Client Experience Workstream: This will include work to ensure on-going changes to support process improvement throughout the entire life of the programme through to realisation of the Future State vision. Tools and strategies will be developed to increase effectiveness when interacting with clients. It’s all about client responsiveness.

Information Management Workstream: This workstream will provide key deliverables across all of the programmes workstreams and contribute to both NZQA and sector-wide initiatives.

Information Technology Workstream: This workstream will provide the ICT delivery to support the other workstreams. It will be responsible for delivering the ICT components of Youth Guarantee, the overhaul of secondary assessment and on-going qualifications review while commencing the delivery of key foundational ICT components for the Future State. It will also help ensure efficient and robust ICT delivery in an increasingly complex and fluid environment.

But I think the workstream you are the most interested in is the assessment one and especially the use of technology within assessment in the senior secondary sector.

You will all be aware of the way the world is changing and the ways in which technology is changing education. Trends such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and blended classrooms are beginning to become the norm in New Zealand schools. The behaviours and learning styles of the “digital natives” that inhabit our schools are placing schools in a position of having to reconsider their policies around the use of such things as social media and smartphones.

This leads me to mention a term I tripped across recently when we were looking at the drivers that will affect us in the next 10 years. Not surprisingly increasing individualisation was one of those – ref the quality assurance challenge I have just described.

Well – “heutagogy” popped out of the recent literature. You may well know it once I spell it out – heutagogy is a self-determined way of approaching learning and development – or “self-determined learning” (based on the Greek for “self”). Now I know that such a holistic approach to developing learner capabilities with learning as an active and proactive process is not news to you.

Neither is it news to recognise that self-determined learning will inevitably involve ICT and require critical thinking skills in cyberspace. You will know that the education and Science Select Committee, led by Nikki Kaye, then Chair, published their report of their Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy late last year. That picks up on the role of digital learning and indeed, this is something that NZQA must respond to from an assessment perspective.

Because the question often asked by schools when we discuss technology and education is “what about assessment?” schools regularly tell us that as long as we persist with the current paper based assessment paradigm, there is little incentive to invest heavily in changes involving technology. I am hopeful that today I will be able to provide you with some assurance that NZQA intends to change the current paradigm and to discuss with you some of the thinking we have done around digital assessment. I am also aware that within this room and within your schools there is knowledge and expertise that we hope to be able to draw on as we work through this journey.

Let me describe a possible scenario.

A teacher has been working through a unit of work with their class, or it may be a unit of personalised learning with 2-3 students. The point is reached where a student, lets call her Sara, and her teacher agree that she is ready to be assessed against a relevant externally assessed standard. They agree on a date and time for the assessment and, at that time, Sara goes to a dedicated room in the school that is being managed by a staff member and set aside for this purpose. The room could be kitted out with a set of computers or the students bring their own.

Within the room there are several students sitting external assessments in a range of subjects and standards – some may be sitting the same standard as Sara and it is entirely plausible they are answering a different set of questions. Once she has logged on, Sara’s assessment against the standard appears and she works through her assessment activities. When she feels she has completed all that she is going to do, Sara submits her responses. The responses are then assessed and the results sent back to Sara within a short space of time, which may be between 48 hours and a week.

This scenario of on-demand, online assessment has several advantages for the student.

Their assessment is undertaken shortly after the learning and therefore provides them with the best opportunity to maximise what they have learned in class. They are assessed when they are ready not the other way round. They only need to focus on one particular standard not up to three.

The result is provided shortly after the assessment thereby enabling the assessment to be used for learning. Students are able to learn in class at their own pace rather than at the pace of the whole class, which means better knowledge and skill mastery. And finally, it does away with the massive logistical exercise at the end of the year that is the end of year examinations.

I accept that this would be a significant cultural shift for New Zealand.

No doubt many of you can see some issues with the scenario and I will admit that it is not perfect but it is based on some sound educational and assessment principles – notably the opportunity to personalise learning and for students to take responsibility for their own learning, to have assessment closer to the learning and to have the assessment inform further learning. It also demonstrates the notions of online and on demand assessment and this is the direction that NZQA is heading.

A lot more investigative work needs to be undertaken before our actual plans and timelines are finalised but we are reasonably confident that we can reach a position within 8 years where most students will be sitting examinations using a digital device. Moving to on demand assessment is then only one step away and making that next step will depend upon the sector and how all the steps up to that point have been received.

Our Future State programme has three phases.

Phase 1 will be the first three years of the programme. This Foundation phase will involve concept development/widespread discussion and refinement, detailed planning, and design and implementation of ICT changes.

Phase 2 will be years 4 and 5, which will focus on ensuring that we optimise our processes to realise the potential benefits. In this phase, we will be aiming to decommission some of our legacy systems and to simplify existing systems.

Phase 3, the Transformation phase, will go from years 6 through to 10. This is when we expect it all to come together, and NZQA will deliver assessment to anyone, anywhere, anytime, online and on demand.

This timeline may not be quick enough for some of you but NZQA is very conscious that it needs to take a very cautious approach to the use of technology within external assessment. I can well understand the nervousness the education sector has with technology at present and given the status of external assessment in particular, you will appreciate that caution must be exercised if we are to make changes to the examination system. Having said that, one aspect we are looking at seriously is the notion of dual assessment for an interim period. This is where we could have the same examination available as computer based or paper based options and students would be able to opt for one or the other.

The Mathematics CAT (Common Assessment Task) will be in its third iteration in 2013 and is now established within the senior secondary school landscape. Our thinking is the Maths CAT provides a very good platform to trial and pilot some of the digital assessment elements.

Moves within NZQA towards digital moderation are already underway through the use of a file sharing process between the school and moderator. Currently, most of this material is still in the traditional hard copy and then digitalised. Some schools (and subjects) are already preparing the assessment for use in a digital environment and I would hope that within 2-3 years we will see a significant increase in the uptake of schools doing their assessments this way.

NZQA has not yet set a deadline regarding a full uptake of digital assessment for internals and, at present, we are allowing individual schools to set their own pace of change. However, as part of the Future State work, NZQA will steadily make available more opportunities for schools to have their digital work moderated within a digital system.

When I commenced this discussion about assessment, I mentioned the driving forces in the 21st century and so I return to the fact that the critical element in the move to internal digital assessment is that teachers and schools accommodate the pedagogical changes that the use of computer technology in the classroom requires. No doubt within your schools discussion is already taking place about the sorts of changes that are needed, and are indeed happening in many schools for the future direction of teaching and learning.

Through the roll out of the Ultrafast Broadband network, schools and students now increasingly have the ability to efficiently connect with the global network and access knowledge in ways they have never been able to before. Through the Network for Learning initiative schools have access to resources to assist in teaching and learning within this medium. In addition to in-class activities and resources students are accessing a range of online tutorials such as the Khan Academy as part of their learning. At NZQA we are aiming to support these initiatives with quality online assessment.

We are also aware the journey NZQA is embarking on is one that cannot (nor should not) be travelled alone. NZQA will need your advice and support at various stages throughout the process and will need to draw on the knowledge, experience and expertise within your schools for piloting and trialling of various elements of digital assessment.

As we at NZQA clarify our thinking and finalise our ideas and plans, we will communicate them to schools and will appreciate comment or feedback. We are also aware that there will inevitably be some very difficult issues to resolve and we hope you will work with us to resolve them.

I do like the Wenger quote: “Insights often arise at the boundary between communities” and we at NZQA do value your insights – which a shared sense of what we are here for – if I can revert to the bird in the forest for a moment – then we can collectively achieve a lot.

To conclude, NZQA has done some significant thinking around what assessment will look like in the future, and digital assessment in particular, and is committed to capturing the value of digital assessment within the secondary school sector.

The shape will become clearer over time, and while I am excited about the journey ahead, I am very aware of the challenges it will pose.

Thank you

2 comments:

Tim Gander said...

Thanks for sharing this - really interesting read! I'll be subscribing to your blog.

Tim Gander said...

Really exciting, thanks again for sharing this!