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Assessment strategies in an open world

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carolyn richardson
26 January 2011

It is one thing to design learning another to discover if learning design strategies actually work and help the process of learning.. otherwise why change from traditional methods of transfer learning?

I am interested in looking at ways we can assess learning in an open world and just who should be assessing an individual's learning given that pathways to learning events and opportunities are legion in a socially mediated semi immersive virtual world.

Would love to begin a debate with anyone interested in this 'next step'  up from learning to assessment!

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Gráinne Conole
7:15pm 26 January 2011

thanks for this carolyn - will reflect on this and see how I can weave it into the book!

carolyn richardson
12:28pm 3 February 2011


I tend to think that any discussion on learning design cannot preclude the exploration of design of assessment. Assessment ( be it self, peer or external) is integral to learning events.

This is something I have a small research grant to study and would be happy to share my views.

My research is notionally entitled "Opening Up! Including Learners in Assessment Practices"

Best wishes


Rebecca Galley
1:39pm 3 February 2011

Carolyn, you might also be interested in a discussion about Learning Design/ representation and ePortfolios which is broadly focused on using learning design representations (and particularly Biggs' Constructive Alignment)  to support student understanding of their learning process .

carolyn richardson
8:47am 4 February 2011

         Thanks for that Rebecca - very useful link which I will follow up as part of my research. Currently devising a questionnaire for use with students ( next week!!) to elicit their views on assessment.

Chris Bigum
2:37am 21 September 2011 (Edited 2:38am 21 September 2011)

To me, excuse grand sweep of hands, the debates around assessment and online work are still more or less trapped in a horseless carriage mindset. This is perfectly reasonable when you consider that so much of the rest of educational practice is similarly placed, i.e. credentialling, delivery of curriculum etc etc So I wonder what assessment (we do need a better word) would look like if it were free of these industrial era encumbrances. 

To me, most assessments are rough surrogates that are supposed to indicate that a student has understood something and/or can do something. Surrogates work ok in a world in which pretend is a key characteristic of learning. The pretend stuff is washed away when folk begin to work online, despite the best efforts of some folk to retain the safe/pretend logic.  If I can do the awful thing of quoting myself from a draft chapter  to illustrate the point:

Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown (2011, p. 92) describe an experiment Thomas conducted following the publication of a report in 2006 that found that 63% of Americans aged between 18 and 24 could not find Iraq on a map. Thomas gave a group of students a computer instead of a map and asked them to find Iraq. They all could but offered a great deal more options of how the country might be viewed, aerial, satellite, conventional map etc.  The shift from ‘what’ to ‘where’ as Brown and Thomas suggest is an important characteristic of working with machines. 


What, to me, is important then is that we need to think more about the complementary skills/knowledge folk develop when they use machines to do things rather than keep having them do things that machines are either good at now or soon will be. In other words the debate about assessment makes little sense unless we step back a bit and mull on just what these machines can do now (e.g. most/all of the maths now taught) etc. I'm not a fan of any of the nonsense around the singularity but Moore's law and all its fellow laws are yet to be rescinded. The computational grunt coming down the pipe is what concerns me most about all of this. We have to get past the "we know what is going on" mindset and think very carefully about what we use machines to do (Jo Weizenbaum's work resonates still here). As i argue in that draft chapter at the end:

The current world already favours those quickest to adapt. Managing the fine balance of what machines do and what humans do will not be simple but it cannot continue to be ignored and needs to be a crucial component in any education that claims to future proof the young. To do this we can’t continue with the mainstays of conventional schooling. It is a matter of letting go, of becoming disenthralled. As Thomas and Brown (2011, p.81) suggest:

 We propose reversing the order of things. What if, for example, questions were more important than answers? What if the key to learning were not the application of techniques but their invention? What if students were asking questions about things that really mattered to them?


The piece is about schooling but IMHO the same ideas apply as well to schooling at any level.

Just tuppence worth. Love the idea of the online development of books and blurring what books are. :)

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