What does assessment in technical education look like? An international review

15 September 2021 Michelle Rea

Today (15 September) we publish A World Without Maps - Assessment in Technical Education, a new report by Simon Field. While much is researched, written, and debated about academic assessment, it is not the case for this equally critical element of technical education. Gatsby tasked Field with uncovering whether this was a common challenge for other systems internationally and if there were any lessons to be learned for what good practice looks like here and abroad.

It is perhaps unsurprising that technical assessment is hard to study, given the diversity of occupations, of competences required for individual occupations, and of assessment tools. This fragmentation makes it difficult to summarise or measure, and to provide the evidence base to guide good practice. As a result, the author describes the landscape of technical assessment seeming '[...] to be like a world without maps'.

What emerges from the various approaches reviewed is that the purpose and function of the assessment is what should determines its design. As Field puts it: '[...] an intellectually demanding knowledge-based exam may impress a university, but not help to persuade an employer of an individual’s ability to tackle the messy realities of day-to-day working life'. The report's key recommendations and conclusions for technical assessment in England include:

Balancing authentic work tasks and standardisation in assessment

  • Implementing synoptic assessment
  • Granting a role to periodic assessment
  • Implementing grading
  • Quality assuring certification
  • Delivering independence in assessments
  • Improving the evidence base