Suppose for a moment that assessment did not have to be a stressful event for the learner. Suppose that the learner actually was excited at the prospect and looked forward to assessment. Even more importantly, suppose the learner had a crystal clear idea of the state of his or her skill sets and knowledge after the assessment event and was self motivated to strive to excel and overcome perceived deficits. What would you say besides questioning what dream world that I was living in?


Assessment, the process by which we measure the performance of learners against a defined local, national or international standard, is an important and valid enterprise but there exists three main problems,IMHO, that have actually distorted what was originally an important mission. These problems that exist in the brick and mortar systems are now impacting E-Learning as well unless a concerted effort is made to correct them.


First, assessment today is conducted in order to see if learners have reached goals and objectives as outlined by the various national ministries of education. The goals and objectives are derived from the vision and model of education that is in place in a society.

 However, what happens if that vision and model of education is no longer valid in the 21st century?

For a couple of centuries we have subscribed to the industrial model of education which in its time was relevant to the age it was meant to serve. In the 21st century that model and vision is out of synch with the desire to see students as agents of change who will help bring about a sustained culture of innovation. Has the nature of assessment changed to reflect this reality or are we still treating students as widgets on an assembly line? Is assessment still the "quality control department" where students who don't fit the mold are off-ramped to remediation? Standardized tests are a product of this industrial model mindset and to be quite frank, are ineffective at getting at a measure of the type of forward looking sustained learning that we really want a measure of in regards to learners. It is really ironic that in education systems that proclaim to be child centered that we inflict such high degrees of stress on these very students through these standardized tests. I confess that I was also part of the problem as I served time as an evaluator of standardized tests completed by students. I don't want to be a part of the problem any more because of what I have learned about what they do to students. I want to be a part of the solution.

Secondly, we need to realize that assessment is a multimillion dollar business. Due to the money involved, there are many vested interests that have dual natures. They have a business nature but they also have a political nature. Depending upon the size of the business, the political nature exerts political influence on those entrusted in creating laws dealing with how education will be conducted. There is nothing wrong with the fact that we elect people to perform such duties but the problem arises when we ask ourselves the question:

" Whose voice carries the most weight?"

Keep in mind that whole industries have grown up around the industrial model and vision to not only support it but also to profit from it. They have multimillion dollar lobby budgets. Do they also have altruistic motives in the use of their capital in education in balance with self-serving motives? Changing the vision and model of education will require that such business are also willing to change so that they too may see the growth of a culture of innovation within their own corporate world. Either they will be proactive with needed change or bitterly reactive when they have no choice.

Thirdly, the use of the results of assessment by various special interest groups has led to a number of failed educational initiatives, a negative branding of schools whose results didn't measure up and the branding of instructors as incompetent. Even government officials up for re-election use the results to tarnish the reputations of their opponents and have themselves elected to office. I believe that in order to counter this brinksmanship that whenever standardized test are written by students that the results of those tests should remain sealed until AFTER  an election is over so that the results are not used for political gamesmanship. What people fail to realize is that the real losers in this gamesmanship are the students themselves. Compounding this problem is how these vested interests tailor their interpretation of test results to fit their own ends which sometimes have nothing to do with ensuring that students receive an enriched quality of education. Discouraged and disconnected from their education, students are seeking other means to further their education in a meaningful and enriching way. As I mentioned in a previous post, students who are in synch with technology will pursue the avenue of edupreneurship as a means of realizing their own dreams. E-Learning holds great promise for the freedom that they don't experience in the traditional education system and the rise of students as edupreneurs is an example of them embracing a new vision and model of education.

At the beginning of this post I suggested some possibilities that I think and believe to be attainable. In the next post, I will suggest the how.