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IB assessment through the lens of the learner profile

From chalk to pencil to pen to keyboard to … what next? As our tools and methods for learning and assessment evolve so too must the way we prepare.

Back in 2009, we started our digital assessment journey by introducing eCoursework upload and, later, the eMarking of examinations. Then in 2015, we launched into the world of on-screen examinations assessment (eAssessment) in our IB Middle Years Programme (MYP). Here, we take a moment to reflect on our assessment evolution through the lens of the IB learner profile.

INQUIRERS—Every story begins by setting the scene and every project begins with a question, in this case: How do we effectively assess students within the context of fast-paced technological advancements in education?

Then comes the research. We set out to understand the experiences and needs of our current ‘users’ and what experts in relevant software fields could offer and advise.

Hundreds of teachers, students and examiners joined our inquiry phases by taking part in surveys, focus groups and pilot exams. It was clear that students wanted engaging multi-media assessment content using intuitive and easy-to-use technology. They also wanted to leave the MYP with evidence to demonstrate the skills they had developed. Our worldwide network of examiners needed accessible and efficient marking software and clear guidelines. And teachers needed a simple and secure way for their students to access the software and for themselves to upload coursework. Certainly, no more paper.

RISK-TAKERS—Examinations were brand new to the MYP in 2015, we had previously moderated aspects of the programme. It was only in our IB Diploma Programme (DP) that had well-established practices and guidelines for exam assessment on paper. So introducing exams in the MYP at the same time as a new digital approach to assessment was undoubtedly a big and exciting risk for us and our schools. But our philosophy demands that our assessments match the times we’re living in. “Digital examinations are rapidly becoming the assessment approach of choice in the present rather than aspirations for the future” said Gareth Hegarty, Senior Manager for the eAssessment transition.

Our transition has not been without problems. But with each exam session, we tweak and improve the process and the supporting resources and software, and we’ve seen participation in eAssessment in the MYP grow (an 11% increase over two years).

KNOWLEDGEABLE—We are in a continuous cycle of harnessing knowledge and expertise, from within and beyond the IB, to consider the future of learning and teaching. eAssessment is just one of the ways that we are building on our knowledge to innovate our practices. Instead of testing a student’s ability to memorize facts and figures, we strive to assess their critical thinking skills and how they can apply knowledge in different contexts. “eAssessment seeks to enhance the validity of assessment by using technology to target higher order skills such as communication and inquiry skills.” said Gareth. You can hear more about our assessment philosophy in this post by our Chief Assessment Officer, Paula Wilcock.

THINKERS—None of our evolution to eAssessment could have been realized without the critical thinking of our team of assessment experts. They are extremely careful in their approach to creating a better learning and assessment experience for our students. The result of their hard work was recently recognized when they won the ‘best use of summative assessment’ at the eAssessment awards.

COMMUNICATORS—It is crucial to communicate and collaborate with the students and educators who interact with our products. In developing eAssessment, working with students and teachers was integral to the process so communication was key for us to seek their input throughout the planning, trial and pilot stages. And students can continue to provide real-time feedback as part of the on-screen examination software.

PRINCIPLED—For 50 years we’ve been proud of our principled assessment practice. eAssessment is no different and we took the same multi-step quality assurance process to design eAssessments and exam questions that align with the MYP curricula and are appropriate in difficulty. The exam content is reviewed by external experts and test versions are fully scrutinized and checked for usability issues or technical glitches before translation into in our three working languages (English, French and Spanish).

BALANCED—One of our core principles of assessment is for every student globally to receive a fair and meaningful grade. Our unique marking system makes this possible through rigorous marking procedures to balance assessment reliability and validity. All examiners follow standardization guides to ensure consistency, and ongoing and regular checks ensure that examiners are marking according to the correct standard. Take a look at the MYP exam journey in this infographic.

CARING—It’s important to remember why we’re doing this; We care about our global community of many thousands of students, teachers, and coordinators who use our assessment services, and we want them to receive the best possible experience. We also strive to be inclusive through ongoing improvements to accessibility. From simple video subtitling to on-screen features that allow visually impaired students to change the font and colour on screen, we want equal access for all students. Read about the first-hand experience of this visually impaired student.

OPEN-MINDED—The field of education can be resistant to change, but in our ever-changing and globalizing world, we need to keep an open mind. “As we fully realize the fourth industrial revolution our assessments need to prepare our students for this change. Their careers are beginning in a changing economy, so we must continuously question why and what we assess,” said Paula. In this post by Anthony Furlong, Manager for Assessment Research and Design, he also looks at how we assess by asking: “The end of marking? The case for (and against) Comparative Judgement”.

REFLECTIVE—Throughout this process, we reflect upon our achievements and challenges so that we can continue to improve. We have more to do in the way we design our learning and teaching materials and assessments to make a smoother transition from the learning experience to the culminating digital assessment. And we will use what we learn as we continue our digital journey.