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From scepticism to optimism for MYP eAssessment

By Hamed Mokhtar

HamedI was sceptical and even disappointed when I first heard about MYP eAssessment!

Questions invaded my mind, and I felt completely lost; ‘onscreen’ means internet access is needed, so what if the internet connection is slow? Will students in schools with weak internet connection be at a disadvantage? And what if the internet connection is completely lost? What will happen to students who do not know how to use the on-screen software?

Questions, questions, but I had to find answers. I found answers for my questions and a lot more in two documents published on the OCC: MYP eAssessment Q&A Sheet – May 2015 and Guide to MYP eAssessment (2015 live pilot examinations). Now, there is even more information available: familiarization tool, Guide to MYP eAssessment, specimen exams, a report on the live pilot session – all on the OCC.

I discovered that the on-screen examination does not mean that students have to take the exam in a live online environment, although there is certainly the option to do so.*

Actually, the school downloads the exam instead of receiving an exam paper by post, and then each student enters his/her code and can take the examination offline. If the computer crashes, exams can be rescheduled on the same day by the school invigilator, in coordination with the IB Assessment Centre in Cardiff.” There is immediate support available for schools throughout the set-up, examination and upload process.

All the hassles and expenses related to mailing do not exist any more, and there are huge benefits in using technology for assessment. It allows audio-visual presentations of problems that are way easier for students to work with because they are more relevant to their digital 21st century world. It also allows students to demonstrate a wide variety of skills as they will be able to use technological tools similar to those that they already use in their daily life. One of my students once asked me “why aren’t assessments relevant to real-life problems; why I am not able to use tools I already possess?” Well, the eAssessment is now the environment that allows this.

And not only are the technology tools in the on-screen examination easy to use, but also, students will have months to familiarize themselves with the on-screen technology tools since a familiarization tool is available to schools well in advance of the examinations.

We always knew that despite the huge effort the IB was making in moderation to ensure standardisation, there was still an inevitable drawback: variability in the level of complexity of the required tasks, and differences in schools’ expectations that made it difficult to establish a consistent and reliably applied global standard. With the growth of the MYP, it was becoming more and more difficult to ensure that students of different schools were achieving MYP grades that were equivalent, regardless of the tasks developed in such a wide community of practice. What is considered challenging in one school might be considered easy for another.

Examinations can offer greater reliability in marking, but another flow of questions began to trouble me about eAssessment:

Does this mean ONE external summative assessment can adequately allow students to demonstrate their achievement against four criteria? We are not used to that! In mathematics, some criteria have to be assessed through a task that takes days for students to accomplish, so how can they be assessed on all criteria just in a single two-hour exam?

My students are very well trained on the MYP objectives, and my moderation samples used to receive excellent moderation reports. What will happen now? My students are not trained to use this new kind of assessment.

Is the MYP giving up the criteria-related assessments? How will someone else be able to make better judgements about my students’ performance than I can?

Is the MYP going backwards from ‘point of view’ assessment? Are we giving up validity for reliability?

Well, I had to improve my understanding of the nature of this eAssessment to be able to regain my passion as MYP teacher! I revisited the original two documents I mentioned above on the OCC and discovered amazing facts:

  • The eAssessment is a series of tasks, each assessing one or more criterion and questions cover multiple strands; it is not a new kind of assessment. It states that eAssessment is just high-quality implementation of the programme. Hence, if my students are well prepared, and my moderation reports did confirm my understanding then my students should do well in the eAssessment.
  • Furthermore, sample tasks and mark schemes are provided, so practically speaking, my students and I can see exactly how the examinations are related to our classroom assessments. It states Questions are allocated marks with reference to MYP assessment criteria. Marks are used to score partial achievement of each level in order to give more reproducible marking. The final grade award is criterion-related (using subject expert judgement) which reflects MYP assessment practice of using achievement level descriptors. Therefore, it is not just about marks allocated to questions and an old fashion marks exam.
  • Actually, the final grade will be based on subject-specific grade descriptors. The marks ensure a valid, balanced assessment for different areas of the framework and one mark = one minute ensures that the two hours are appropriate duration for the students at this age.

The bottom line for me: there are good reasons for us to be optimistic about the improvements and new opportunities that MYP eAssessment brings for all schools, especially schools that have used moderation to validate their understanding and implementation of the MYP.

*There will be an option for schools to have a real-time connection to the internet in order to provide further assurance that students’ answers are being saved remotely throughout the examination.

Hamed Mokhtar is a Maths Teacher and Supervisor, plus Curriculum Manager, MYP and DP departments, Green Land Pré Vert International School (GPIS), Egypt.