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December 08, 2020 Tuesday 03:50:44 PM IST

Assessments Technology has Come of Age

Cover Story

Assessment is subjective and we are aspiring to make it as much objective as possible. But let us understand the historically contingent truth that education is epochal and therefore assessment is also bound to be epochal. Each epoch has to be understood as age or epoch of a given techno-economic system.

And naturally education will be evaluating the competencies required by the techno-economic system.  We may take up the issue and discuss it with all democratic values and passions but it is not our deliberation which is going to decide on the nature of evaluation. There are other forces at work. These are the forces built in the techno economic system.

First, there would be a set of techno-economic competencies required during each age. So naturally, education would be oriented to achieving it. Then evaluation is sequel to that and it would try to ascertain whether the competencies of the age, those required by the techno-economic system are attained or not. This a much more self-consciously realist activity in our times because we decide the outcomes beforehand and we set the measurable outcomes based on Blooms Taxonomy.

We have a justification for doing it with some sort of rigor because we have been taking evaluation quite casually. We have been taking each academic program so casually without any specific goals. And specific goals having been set for education, there is no specific goals set for evaluation. Now we are conscious about the very ambivalent kind of education and evaluation and we go by the meanings, measures and parameters of outcome-based education.

In undergraduate and post-graduate levels we have been testing only the faculty to remember. But learning is not just remembering.  An undergrad is expected to remember all the basics. You don't have to test it again and again.

Types of Knowledge

Tests should be focussed on various categories of knowledge -- factual understanding, knowledge conceptual understanding, procedural understanding or the knowledge category that addresses itself-Meta cognition. Understanding itself is categorised into categories of knowledge, understanding is important here. An undergraduate student has to be capable of understanding any subject matter conceptually, procedurally and through critical reflexive way. That is metacognition. Application of knowledge assumes importance.  This is particularly true in the case of an engineering undergraduate who has to start from application competency. An engineering student has to assessed on application, analytical and creative skills. We also assess in the usual parameters confined to the faculty to remember. Thus you pass a large number of engineering students who become engineers with no employability.

It is important to change our assessment system not to be something universally valid and something which is of alltime value. That kind of an assessment system wouldn't be there. Now we have arrived at a stage where the techno economic system demands competencies like high level computational skills, mathematical basis and higher cognition, analytical faculty and faculty to apply, faculty to evaluate and faculty to create. All these are important and the capability called cross disciplinary literacy. One should be able to transcend the disciplinary silos and think in terms of convergence of multiple disciplines. These are the skills and competencies which the techno economic system of the times called the techno capitalism  and in common place language called knowledge economy demands. They are considered to be the best ones as it is demanded by the economy.

More Objectivity

 But we would be lagging behind, we are still following the old method and therefore the techno economic system has a built-in mechanism to change education and evaluation system. This debate itself or the round table itself is one of the institutional aspects of the system. We are thinking about it because of the inadequacy of the evaluation system. But there is a value loaded presumption that  we are going to constitute an evaluation system that is fool proof and everlasting. That wouldn't happen.

Now, we may have an evaluation system that is highly technology oriented. We have all kinds of technological devices thanks to fast developing IT, artificial intelligence, augmented reality devices, virtual reality devices, mixed reality and so on. All these technological devices, solutions, tools are there and we presume these devices would give us objective assessment. We are going to see amazing kind of technological devices for assessing the ability to perform and demonstrate. A proper assessment will be made by evolving technologies.

(Excerpts from introductory remarks made at the 65th Rajagiri Round Table Conference held on Wednesday, 25th November, 2020)

Dr Rajan Gurukkal

Academician, historian, Social Scientist Read more articles..