Common Pre-Tests, Events, Common Entrance, iPQ, Teachers, Schools 10 May 2024

Exploring the future of assessment: Highlights from ISEB’s one-day conference for schools

“Superb day – interesting, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable.”

On 24 April 2024, London hosted a dynamic and forward-thinking educational conference, Assessing Change, Awarding the Future, delivered by the Independent Schools Examinations Board (ISEB). The conference brought together representatives from over 90 of the UK’s most influential independent schools, alongside researchers and industry experts, to join a series of thought-provoking keynote talks, panel discussions and well-mannered debates that challenged the current use of exams and assessments in our schools and looked ahead to the future of learning and certification.

“Excellent speakers, thought-provoking topics.”

The day featured three inspiring keynote speakers: Professor Bill Lucas, University of Winchester; Professor Mary Richardson, IOE at UCL; and Colin Hughes, CEO of AQA. Each headline speaker brought their unique perspective and insights into digital assessment, the impact of AI and technology, and the roadmap towards digital exams in England.

Professor Bill Lucas, Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester, opened the conference with a challenge to delegates – rethinking assessment in schools and the curriculum. Drawing on research from curricula reform in Australia and how these outcomes could, and perhaps should, be applied in England, Professor Lucas went on to explore the ways in which assessment could be improved, introducing learner profiles, arguments for reducing the number of exams and championing creative thinking, collaboration, and project learning.

Mary Richardson, Professor of Educational Assessment at the IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, guided delegates through an exploration of the potential impact of generative AI technology on assessment design. Professor Richardson explored the challenges and opportunities brought about by the technology from both the learner and teacher perspectives and drew parallels between the rise of digital assessments and increased discussion of the use and purpose of assessment in schools.

AQA CEO Colin Hughes rounded out the series of keynote talks by exploring the roadmap to digital exams from England’s largest exam board. As a registered charity, AQA uses its income to develop and improve qualifications for the future. In his talk, Colin introduced and explored new digital maths tests from AQA, launching in summer 2024, aimed at students in the first few years of secondary school. The test will include 30 – 40 questions from a bank of around 150 and will allow teachers to identify gaps in students’ conceptual knowledge, providing an idea of the concepts and topics to continue working on. These tests will be available to all schools at no cost.

“Great to hear different perspectives from the heads of different schools, both prep and senior.”

In addition to three exceptional headline talks, delegates attended breakout sessions and workshops exploring a wide range of topics, from Adaptive Comparative Judgment and creative writing for admissions to replacement GCSE courses, the future of the prep school curriculum and the evolution of the 120-year-old Common Entrance (CE) syllabus, the rise of project-based learning and how to promote and champion pupil well-being in assessment.

These breakout discussions included panels of highly experienced Heads and Deputy Heads from leading UK independent schools, including Harrow, the Dragon, Cottesmore, Ashfold, Wellington College, King’s High Warwick, King Alfred School, Latymer Upper, Habberdashers’ Elstree and Ludgrove School all of which prompted a diverse and exciting debate among attendees.

“It was an all-round excellent experience. A big thank you to the team.”

The conference concluded with recognition and celebration of the commitment of delegates, speakers, and panellists to reflect on their current assessment and exam practices and continue to deliver the best possible experience for the pupil at all times.

“Worthwhile day hearing some thought-provoking speakers, meeting some interesting people and looked after exceedingly well by the ISEB team.”

Conference attendees can contact ISEB to continue the conversation here.

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