10 | Summing Up
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
—Paul Anka, “My Way”
We hope you will forgive us this bit of sentimentality. It’s been a long haul through the assessment landscape, and we want to exit well with just a few concluding thoughts.
We feel we have done what we set out to do. We feel our case is certain. As adult educators and online practitioners, we have grown into, researched, experienced, and accepted the concepts and practices that we have outlined here. We live them, and we are delighted to have had the opportunity to write about them.
The book has, throughout these chapters, focused on issues of assessment specifically arising from online learning. We have made clear the caveat that we addressed learning in the social sciences and humanities, which use a certain type of assessment, usually different from hard data or multiple choice–type instruments. We have discussed authentic learning and authentic assessment, learner engagement, and how the affordances of online learning and a constructivist philosophy of teaching and learning provide good opportunities for creating and implementing authentic learning experiences.
We have focused on the grounding of good online practice in the adult education principles of maturity, respect, deep learning, and constructivist pedagogy. From these principles, it is easy to extrapolate the rationale and shape of authentic assessment practices: assessment that aims for practicality, real-life application, and meaningfulness; assessment that offers learners a context for their creativity and productivity; and assessment that provides a good base for sustained learning. Do we believe that those kinds of assessment are already at work in traditional classrooms? No, not really. Do we believe that, in spite of that, they can be introduced into the online experience? Yes, we do! And we have set about explaining how to do that.
In conclusion, then, we summarize with these themes:
• Assessment is an important part of the cycle of learning, which also includes outcomes (what?), strategies (how?), and content. It is an integral part of the planning process and must coalesce with all other aspects of the intended learning experience, whether in terms of course or program.
• Educators must know and understand their own philosophical stance on teaching and learning in order to choose materials, activities, and assessment in a coherent manner.
• Assessment activities and processes will reflect educators’ values.
• Authentic assessment presents learners with opportunities to make connections with prior knowledge and to build relationships between their own learning and real-life situations. Authentic assessment is ill-defined and permits learners to engage with open-ended tasks that sustain learning and the learning cycle.
• Online learning provides fertile ground for the creation of authentic assessment and evaluative activities and should be appreciated for its affordances and used to its full capacity.
• Advancing technology opens more doors for authentic assessment and can include social media tools that can be used in conjunction with traditional assessment vehicles, such as essays and reports, but can also be used independently.
• Journals, group work, projects, portfolios, peer-assessment, and self-assessment all provide opportunities for online authentic assessment.
We have been tempted, in the final days of writing and revising, to add more material to this work as more and more good material espousing these themes has appeared, much of it electronically. On social media venues, this material flashes by in an instant, each click opening up a maze—or a rabbit-hole—of sources, inspirations, and ideas. That said, and knowing that a conclusion is not the time to raise new arguments, we cannot help but include this passage from Wiley’s (2017) chapter in Jhangiani and Biswas-Diener’s newly published book, as it speaks directly to the issue of assessment:
Substantive intellectual and practical work remains to be done on Open Assessments. First, questions must be answered regarding the integrity and security of assessments that are openly licensed. Second, as students and faculty (neither of whom are trained in creating valid, reliable assessments) create and contribute a wide range of Open Assessments to the community, we will need to develop techniques for evaluating and improving assessments on the ground and contributing these improvements back to the community. (p. 205)
Wiley’s chapter, and indeed, the theme of Open: The Philosophies and Practices That are Revolutionizing Education and Science (Jhangiani & Biswas-Diener, 2017), confirm that the “age of open,” wherever you stand on it, will continue to evoke more disruption to traditional ways and create more excitement and opportunity. To know this is tremendously exciting and academically provocative, but as we lyricized at the beginning of this chapter, our assessment lines have been drawn, our case is clear, and this is, indeed, the final curtain (for now!).