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Looking to the future of assessment at NCFE


Transforming assessment at NCFE

Janine Oliver Janine Oliver Head of Assessment Innovation

16 Jun 2021

At the heart of NCFE’s vision to promote and advance learning is the deep desire to help every individual achieve their full potential throughout their lifetime, whatever the starting point and however ambitious the goals. As the pace of change in the world is ever-increasing, particularly due to disruptive new technologies, major societal trends, and not to mention the ongoing global pandemic, the needs of the labour market will continue to rapidly evolve. This will require most people to continuously develop themselves to overcome challenges and seize opportunities, demonstrating their skills along the way. An integral part of enabling this development, is through looking at the future of assessment and identifying the key ingredients required to create a system that is truly transformational for learners in technical and vocational education.

In a series of articles, we will look at this from different angles, providing an update on the steps we are taking at NCFE to set up our learners for successful futures. This first article will focus on outlining NCFE’s vision for the future of assessment; supporting educators, educational institutions and systems, to improve teaching, learning, assessment, outcomes and progression for learners.

Why are we focused on the ‘Future of Assessment’?

NCFE is an educational charity with the core purpose to ‘promote and advance learning, helping to create a fairer, more inclusive society’. Our primary concern is the opportunities and outcomes that learners achieve in their learning, career and in life.

Within NCFE, we have a regulated Awarding Organisation (AO) predominantly focussed on technical and vocational qualifications, an End-Point Assessment Organisation for apprenticeships, and a diagnostic assessment and content proposition. Across our organisation, we have a wide variety of experts in teaching, learning, development, assessment, and a wealth of experience within the regulated education space – this includes teams such as Assessment Design, Assessment Production, Assessment Delivery, End-Point Assessment and Assessment Innovation. The experts from within all these teams enable us to draw on a range of perspectives and experiences that help to shape our thinking and plans.

The work we do in looking to the future of assessment will ensure our learners have access to world-class products and services that help them to fulfil their potential, not just in terms of academic attainment or employment outcomes, but also their wellbeing, mental health and happiness. In order to achieve this, we know we need to look at assessment used in a variety of different ways and at different stages of the learning journey, from pre-programme diagnostic assessment, formative micro and milestone assessment, through to summative end-point assessment and beyond.

Vision – breaking boundaries in assessment

As we continue to navigate the impact of Covid-19, there is no better time to review how assessment works, the place it has within education currently, and how this has to change. Assessment goes far beyond just ‘exams’.

We believe that we must do more to shift the current dated, disconnected and transactional approaches to assessment within formal education to systems and approaches that are truly transformational for learners, educators and educational institutions. Our vision is to break the boundaries of assessment within education and promote innovation that creates robust and reliable assessment within an intelligent education ecosystem.

Assessment will build trust, confidence, and value to all stakeholders and our solutions will be inherently fair, providing an appropriate level of ‘recognisable value’ to all stakeholders who have invested in learning. What’s more, assessment will be an integral component of the learner journey that showcases learner, educator, and institution level strengths, and developing true agency in learners across a lifetime of learning.

What exactly do we mean by the ‘future of assessment’ and how will we get there?

We believe that there is a need to build an end-to-end learner journey that highlights the purpose and value of assessment throughout. This journey will support learners to grow beyond the constraints of their subject area and develop their ability to learn and adapt, helping them to succeed in an ever-changing job market.

In order to achieve this, assessment will need to be:

  • fair and inclusive
  • recognise prior learning skills and competence
  • on-demand and multi-channel, tailored to the individual needs of learners
  • robust and credible
  • and converted to a recognised store of value (currently often a certificate).

To do this, we understand that we need an approach to assessment that connects data and provides quality insight.

At NCFE, we believe that true, impactful change comes from collaboration and that’s why we have consulted extensively with experts from the academic and regulated awarding and assessment world, as well as EdTech organisations, JISC and other future-focused stakeholders.

We also trust the power of data and every decision we make is powered by insight. That’s why we have explored and researched the role and scope of assessment in technical and vocational learning, assessment methods, the role of technology, the role of personalisation and all in the context of policy, regulation and what is going on in the current marketplace.

The future is now: what is our focus in the next 6-12 months?

We’re looking to the future but we’re also very focused on the here and now. At NCFE, we already offer learners and educators access to a coherent programme of learning, relevant to the stage of their learning journey. We also have a strong track record for developing and delivering robust summative assessments across multiple industry areas. This has led to us partnering with Government, for example in the development of the flagship T Level programmes.

Our focus now is to build on this through:

  • investing in research to build on the current product and service offer we have for customers and learners. This research will focus on assessment methodology, technology, and learning analytics.
  • building our approach to assessment innovation, working with our expert panel and other stakeholders to stay future-focused, engage with best-in-class solutions, and work with government and regulators to develop a culture of innovation for education, particularly in relation to assessment.
  • developing and launching our Assessment Innovation Fund, providing an opportunity for internal teams and external stakeholders to pilot new approaches and tools within assessment.
Change needs collaboration – we want to work with you

There are many ways you can get involved. You can join our expert panel to be part of the discussions and activities that drive innovation. There will also be a range of consultation opportunities in relation to the research we are undertaking now and in the future. When we launch the Assessment Innovation Fund, we will be looking for applications to deliver an assessment innovation pilot.

For more information on any of these exciting opportunities, or to further discuss the future of assessment, please get in touch with NCFE’s Head of Assessment Innovation Janine Oliver - [email protected]

The work we do in looking to the future of assessment will ensure our learners have access to world-class products and services that help them to fulfil their potential, not just in terms of academic attainment or employment outcomes, but also their wellbeing, mental health and happiness.

Janine Oliver