The end of assessment as we know it

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“The concept of a job is going away” (Bersin, 2012) and so should the concept of assessment. At least assessment as we know it. Or the assessment forms that we dearly esteem.

The truth is, most educators teach to assess. Yes, the end goal of the learning experience is to prepare learners to succeed in the assessment. Does anyone else see something wrong with this picture?

Take, for instance, the idea of knowledge in the new Capitalism and how communities of practice are key to helping employees understand the whole company process of which they are part, adapt to fast-changing technologies, markets and work environments, share knowledge and encourage one another. Our role as leaders is to create communities of practice around a goal or interest, and help them generate explicit knowledge from the mostly tacit, extensive, distributed and disperse knowledge shared in the communities (Gee, 2000).  Whether we want it or not, whether we (leaders, educators) create them or not, these learners will find ways to connect to their peers in communities of practice. We can choose start them, participate in them, facilitate the knowledge sharing, eve intersperse “educational content” (I mean that in a formal sense of the word, being it synchronous sessions with a facilitator, guided discussions, group activities, etc.). So, how can we measure success in complex and interactive learning communities?

The word “practice” in “community of practice” is key in identifying assessments that would be authentic to the learners of the 21st century.

  • Assessment has to be authentic to the activities they do on the job. Practical. Ask learners to create  a product that related to the goal of the learning experience/community. A sales community/course could, for instance, be assessed on mock sales pitch presentations they create individually or in teams.
  • Assessment can to go beyond the finite notion of a single event. What if the learners that just created a pitch could reuse that for a real encounter with a customer? What if an activity in a technical System Administration community is to create a script that performs a certain task on an Operating System, and, after being assessed positively, feedback provided by peers and facilitator, that script could be then used in the real world by the learner on his/her day-to-day job?
  • Also, assessment has to be part of learning, not the end goal of it. Why make it a boring quiz when it can be a simulation in which the learners put to practice what they shared and discussed during the course of the community?
  • Let members of the community assess one another. Most online community platforms have discussion boards, badges, and other ways of giving kudos to other users.
  • Allow self-reflection. “Did you achieve the goal? Did you successfully sell product X to customer Y? What defines “success” to you? What would you have done differently?”
  • Let the assessment be fun. Have a competition in teams of who performs the task “better” producing a “better” final product, to be assessed by a judge or the community itself.

There are so many form of alternative assessment (NCLRC, 2000), why are we still so dependent on the omniscient LMS as the most used form of accountability in traditional courses?

We are in the 21st century, yet still defining success with ancient measurements…


A Couple of References

Bersin, J., 2012. The End of a Job as We Know It. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved January 20, 2012 from

Gee, JP., 2000.  Communities of practice in the new capitalism. J Learn Sci.

National Capital Language Resource Center (2000). Assessing Learning: Alternative Assessment. Washington DC.


Instructional Designer, learner...

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