Exploring the Effectiveness
of Innovative Assessment
Earlier chapters have argued for changes to assessment. In this part, the chapters address explicitly the question of innovation, and provide practical advice about how to begin to approach it.
Phil Race in Chapter 5 urges us to ask for whom assessment takes place, what its purpose is and what the various stakeholders in higher education want and need. Answering these questions takes him to a position where he advocates innovation despite the risks associated with it. He concludes that because traditional methods are not fulfilling their purposes – they fail to measure the knowledge, skills and attributes which we mean them to – we have no choice but to look to new ways of assessing. Our choices will involve us in making decisions about the timing and content of assessment, and about the balance between collaborative and individual work and that between assessing content and performance. In each of these decisions, Phil Race helps by providing us with prompting questions.
Liz McDowell and Kay Sambell (Chapter 6) in drawing our attention to the student perspective suggest that we do not yet know enough about the use of innovative methods in practice. We do not know whether they fulfill successfully the aspirations that, in them, teaching, learning and assessment are integrated into a meaningful unity. Their chapter makes it clear that innovative assessment is not necessarily beneficial to students and may not be entirely welcomed by them, although their research indicates that there may be considerable advantages over what students see as combative approaches in traditional assessment. To realize the potential of innovative assessment, we need to involve students and to share with them the intentions and implementation of new methods and approaches. They suggest that there are seven steps which can guide the teacher in implementing new assessment approaches more effectively, and that it is worth the effort – not least for students!
Finally, in Neil Fleming's chapter (Chapter 7), we are cautioned against an uncritical adoption of innovation. Like any other form of assessment, innovative assessment carries risks with it, and indeed may be more open to