Posted on September 23, 2009 · Posted in SF Fellow

All teachers in South Africa need to have the time, focus, support and resources necessary to deliver the curriculum effectively. I would like to ensure that they have access to an online assessment bank tool plus toolkit to generate tests, capture and analyse learners’ results and provide detailed reporting on a learner-by-learner, class or national basis as to learning outcomes achieved. The assessment bank would be built according to Open Education philosophy encapsulated in the Cape Town Open Education Declaration.

If we support communities of teachers sharing, adapting and enhancing assessment items in iterative, open and transparent ways it will save individual teachers’ time, provide assessment items of the highest quality and enhance the sharing of innovative ideas. The project would need to provide the simple, intuitive tools, support and advocacy necessary to allow teachers to achieve a critical mass of items. Furthermore, assessment items would need to be tagged with meta-data so that learners’ results can be captured and analysed allowing teachers to access reports that pin-point individual learner’s weaknesses and strengths, allowing for targeted interventions to support individual learners’ needs.

I have already been on the receiving end of many requests for an assessment bank, more so now that we are running teachers’ workshops as part of Siyavula. The original software development plan for Siyavula called for the integration of a new resource type into Connexions that would allow the automatic generation of tests. In retrospect it was too ambitious at that time but circumstances have changed and we are now in a position to deploy an assessment bank relatively easily that meets the criteria outlined above.

In embarking on this little exercise I think that we could achieve differing levels of success, all useful:

  1. The basic success criterion is that teachers  regularly use assessment items from the bank. For sustainability, it is important that we see items being added by teachers. If we see daily access by teachers and contribution statistics comparable to 1% of visits then we would deem the basic assessment bank as a reference for teachers a success and likely to be sustainable.
  2. Should regular test generation take place on the site, it would indicate that we have sufficient items in a number of subject areas to be a useful tool for a new teacher and could be certain that teachers were saving time by using it and that we are making an impact in the classroom.
  3. If the tools for capturing results and generating reports are being used it would indicate that the tool  is useful in helping to guide day-to-day classroom practice and that teachers are now more aware of individual learners’ needs.

Teachers contributing items would also have joined the family of OER authors and it would significantly lower the barrier to getting them to contribute modules to Connexions by illustrating the benefits of sharing, acclimatising them to working online and ensuring that they feel like they are part of a much larger, virtual community. I would expect to see teachers who are comfortable authoring items on the assessment bank quickly stepping up to working on modules on Connexions.

About the Author

Mark Horner is the CEO of Siyavula Education, a social enterprise working in the school sector in South Africa. While working as the Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow for Open and Collaborative Resources, Mark was able to transform the Free High School Science Texts (FHSST) project, which he co-founded, into Siyavula Education. In this process, openly-licensed, collaboratively authored textbooks have been printed and distributed nationally in South Africa. Working at the intersection of community, openness and technology; Mark intends to leverage this success to make Siyavula an innovative, technology provider in education that works effectively as part of the education community to ensure better learning opportunities for all. A recent notable event being the delivery of Siyavula's textbooks over Mxit, the most popular mobile chat solution in South Africa. Mark has a PhD in physics from the University of Cape Town and conducted his research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California on the results from the STAR experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. His work is carried out in the belief that the liberation of information and support of education in South Africa will lead to a peaceful and prosperous future for all South Africans.