AHELO: The Ontario Experience

Mary Catharine Lennon, Linda Jonker, Auricle, Apr 22, 2014
Commentary by Stephen Downes

The purpose of this study was to determine whether standardized international learning outcomes assessment were possible. The study concludes it is possible: "Experts and faculty agreed on shared learning outcomes and assessment questions, and the project management and execution followed a common protocol across the globe." But there's a lot of slack around the margins. "The data are not representative of the jurisdictions or the institutions," reports the study, and "The tests themselves were not found to be accurate." Moreover, "student recruitment for low stakes testing is extremely challenging." And many of the institutions did not obtain the ethics clearance to study their own data. 49 page PDF.

As an aside, I found this interesting, as I've commented on it many times in my talks but rarely see it instantiated in practice: "Rather than assessing content knowledge, both discipline-specific assessments focused on the application of knowledge (i.e., can a student 'think like an engineer')." This is a departure from what a lot of people think about when they think about standardized tests. But it's an approach that recognizes that knowledge isn't an accumulation of facts in the brain, but rather, is a reflection of an overall brain-state: to 'know' is to see the world in a certain way, to recognize things in a characteristic way, to 'think like an engineer'.

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