ERC develops authentic assessment tools that can be readily integrated in learning and instruction so as to empower both student and teacher to continuously evaluate and regulate their own knowledge and practice in the direction of meaningful learning. It also assists some countries in the development of their state exit exams.
Prevalent forms of educational assessment are falling short of providing reliable evidence about student learning; evidence that teachers and other concerned educators can use to make informed and viable decisions about instruction, pedagogy and curriculum development. The educational community at large is no longer viewing assessment as an end in itself whereby students are assigned particular scores or grades for sanction or graduation purposes. The community is increasingly recognizing the need to integrate assessment with learning and instruction so as to empower both students and teachers to successfully partake succeed in critical self-evaluation and insightful self-regulation of their respective performance.
Research in the last three decades has consistently shown that major shortcomings of prevailing formative assessment are: (a) ascertaining the extent to which students meaningfully learn course materials, (b) identifying progress or evolution paths of individual students throughout the course of instruction, and (c) tracking student evolution along these paths in meaningful ways. Research further shows that students often perform well in classroom summative assessment, standardised tests and national/exit exams without necessarily understanding what they are being tested about.
The Educational Research Center (ERC) in Lebanon has taken the lead in setting the stage to overcome the shortcomings of prevalent assessments and to meet the needs of the educational community for authentic and reliable assessment. ERC is prepared to assist all interested stakeholders in the Arab world to make valued judgment about assessment that helps to continuously improve the state of education in the direction of meaningful and equitable learning. In particular ERC can help interested states and agencies develop research-based, reliable assessment frameworks and tools that help instructors, assessment specialists and curriculum developers: (a) discern knowledge that is critical for the success and meaningful learning of course materials, (b) choose and/or develop valid and reliable means and methods for ascertaining student knowledge and competence, and their evolution in the course of instruction, and (c) interpret the outcomes of assessment so that informed and constructive decisions can be made about learning and instruction, as well as about various curricular components.
A plan is hereby proposed to assist interested countries in moving in this direction. This is a multi-stage plan that begins by ascertaining the current state of assessment in K-12 (general education) in any given country, and ends with the deployment of research-based assessment framework and tools specifically designed and corroborated to meet the needs of the country in question. The plan consists of three primary phases. Each phase may be subdivided into stages. Details and timeline of the plan will be set and implemented in close collaboration with local experts appointed by concerned ministries or agencies.
Ascertaining the current state of assessment: Strengths and needs
Assessment derives from the framework of a given curriculum, and serves the purposes of this particular curriculum. A team of ERC and local experts will ascertain the current state of assessment in K-12 (general education), in the context of existing and prospective curricula, in order to determine the strengths and needs of the system in place. Depending on the country’s needs, ascertained issues may be about classroom assessment (formative and/or summative), and/or national/exit exams and standardised testing. Some of the issues include: (a) the assessment framework in place and its foundations (cognitive, epistemic, psychometric, etc.), (b) the declared goals and actual utility of assessment, (c) assessment modes, norms, indicators and tools, and their viability (validity, reliability, fairness, feasibility, efficiency, etc.), and (d) the role of technology in assessment.
Formulation of the appropriate assessment framework and design of assessment tools
The assessment vision of local policymakers and stakeholders, and evaluation of the state of assessment conducted in the previous phase, will guide the refinement of the existing assessment framework or formulation of a novel framework that best serves the purposes of education in the local community(ies). The framework will set the foundations and guidelines for developing and deploying (implementing and interpreting) assessment tools for various disciplines. The nature and scope of tools will depend on the target type(s) of assessment, the extent to which every country would like to push for authentic/alternative assessment, and the afforded means and timeline.
Deployment, evaluation and refinement of framework and tools
Reliable evidence needs to be established for the viability of the formulated framework. Evidence is sought through deployment of the framework in the development, implementation and evaluation of assessment tools. The closed cycle of framework formulation – deployment – evaluation– refinement-may be reiterated more than once, should the appropriate means and timeline be afforded.
Implications will be drawn by the end of this phase about the state and prospects of assessment, as well as about various curricular components and especially about learning and instruction. Implications will also be drawn about mechanisms and support systems that may be needed to help teachers and other stakeholders develop new tools, and effectively deploy and continuously refine framework and tools, and subsequently sustain the impact of implemented assessment changes. All outcomes and recommendations will be put at the disposal of concerned policymakers and agencies in a way that would allow them make informed and viable decisions about the future of education in their country.