The Australian education system needs to revamp the way students are being assessed to equip them with the skills necessary to “future-proof their employability prospects,” a new report from University of Melbourne (UniMelb) says.
“We are currently seeing assessment practices that lead to learners with dependence on instruction, who are being tested by recalling memory and solving problems in a basic, formula-driven way,” said Professor Sandra Milligan from Melbourne Graduate School of Education (MGSE).
Professor Milligan, who is also the lead author of the report titled “Future Proofing Students: What they need to know and how educators can assess and credential them,” added that this assessment method was not preparing students for the “next century” of work.
“The current system is off-kilter with what will be demanded of students when they leave and try to find employment and face the issues life will throw at them,” she said.
“We’re not only talking about students’ fundamental capabilities with numeracy, literacy and information communication technology, but also critical and creative thinking, intercultural understanding as well as ethical understanding.”
Professor Milligan also said that not fully developing and accurately assessing these skills, and not having attainments count in school credentials will likely leave students “unable to appreciate or represent what they are really capable of.”
“We need to upskill students with the essential and transferable skills that are needed for lifelong learning, and make sure that they are easily recognised by employers and tertiary institutions,” she said.
To address this, Professor Milligan has called for the creation of “learner profiles,” a digital assessment tool that provides detailed information about a student’s strengths, learning preferences, and capabilities.
Through this platform, students can identify the learning skills they already have and those they need, and monitor their own progress. It also allows employers and tertiary education institutions to better understand students.
Some schools have already adopted the tool, including south-east Queensland’s Beenleigh State High School, which is using the learning profiles for the first time this year.
“This is a much more powerful tool in demonstrating the abilities of our students and recognises individual skills and capabilities – much more than just a certificate,” said Principal Matt O’Hanlon.
“We identified several years ago that some student attributes weren’t reflected in their reports or assessments and employers weren’t able to recognise these,” he said.
Principal O’Hanlon said the school has engaged with the local business community in developing the digital assessment platform to better demonstrate a student’s employability.
“Prospective employers want to know three things: a candidate’s attendance, attitude and abilities, and what a Learner Profile does is encapsulate all of this in a student’s portfolio,” he said.
“Now is the time to develop the framework within the wider education system, so we can better teach and assess these 21st century skills and future-proof our students.”