Modernizing Assessment

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Assessment in the 21st Century: Why We Can No Longer Rely on Traditional Forms of Assessment.

            In the field of Education, there is a constant need for time. Educators need time to plan for more lessons, students need more time to study, and researchers need more time to provide case studies and anecdotal evidence. While this is not to say that any individual in the system is simply practicing poor time management skills, rather that institutional and cultural changes simply take a lot of communal organized effort. Take for instance, the Saskatchewan curriculum for Grade 10 History was published in 1992! While this slow process may be on the safe side, as numerous individuals and organizations get to offer insight and valuable information, our students are not waiting around.

            In the 21st century, technology has impacted our society more than ever before, and become an intimate part of Canadian’s every day lives. The reach of technology and Globalization can not be understated as a form of open communication and access to information at the touch of a fingertip. Canada is embracing the benefits of this by investing into high skills trades, including business and industry (Dochy, 1997, 281) in order to compete in the global market. While there is a cultural and economic shift towards incorporating technology, our education system is getting left behind. Dochy (1997) states that,

The testing culture fits well with the traditional approach to education where teaching is seen as an act of depositing the content which students receive, memorize and reproduce. The most efficient way of testing this process is by standardized tests delivered by external testing agencies. (p. 282).

Traditional forms of testing for students such as multiple-choice tests, encourage the memorization of information and may lead to a shallow understanding of the topic. These forms are also seen to students are more threatening, less like real life activities, and more likely to encourage independent study (Dochy, 1997, 291). While Canadian culture is changing into becoming more high skills, technologically dependant, and collaborative, Canadian schools are slow to prepare students for this new world and thus are failing to prepare students for the real world.

            While research in this area of education has been slow and underfunded, a shift towards assessment as a culture is beginning to gain traction. Roswell (2011) states that in this movement that, “the teacher is now better represented as a key to open the door to domains of knowledge and experience” (p. 280) rather than a traditionalist notion of the education as all knowing. In the assessment as culture approach, the student is offered a larger responsibility in their pursuit of knowledge, and the educator acts as a guide. Students are presented opportunities to learn digital literacies, collaborate with others, and participate in peer and self assessment. One study by Roswell (2011) shows that students actually became more collaborative and involved in the lesson plan when educators incorporated social networking into assessment (p. 290).

Traditional forms of assessment are becoming outdated; they way that they teach students and form them to become citizen is staying the same while the world around us changes and evolves. We no longer need the same citizens and workers as we needed fifty years ago when traditional assessment culture was the only option. As educators it is our job to give our students the best possible chance to succeed in this world, and this means always exploring and searching for relevant resources and assessments.


Roswell, J. & M. Walsh. (2011). Rethinking Literacy Education in New Times: Multimodality, Multiliteracies, & New Literacies. Brock Education, 21.1, 53-62.

Dochy, J. & L. McDowell. (1997). Introduction: Assessment as a Tool for Learning. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 23.4, 279-298.

January 20 2020

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