Can students be assessed today as they were before the pandemic?


The global pandemic caused by the rapid spread of COVID-19 has brought about a change in the way of proceeding in every area imaginable; and the world of education has perhaps been one of the environments in which this social, professional and academic reorganization has had the most impact.

One of the most surprising consequences that this fact has had is the decision ‘by decree’ by the educational authorities of some autonomous communities that the third evaluation is not taken into account when reflecting the academic performance of students or at least in the same proportion as the rest of the evaluations.

From this decision it seems to be deduced that a sufficiently effective teaching-learning process is not possible in a virtual environment, that is, that the transmission of content, the research process and the transfer cannot take place with sufficient guarantees in virtual contexts.

Competency-based learning

However, if the basic principle that defines the competence-based learning of Jaques Delors, that is, the need to promote transfer development in students, does not seem incompatible. Developing transfers implies putting the emphasis, not so much on what the student knows and knows, but on the competencies and skills that have been achieved.

Transfer is nothing but the ability to apply what has been learned in a new and different context . In short, a competence that enables the individual to face a large number of situations.

What does “formative” mean?

It should also be remembered that the regulations of the current educational system include that, within the teaching-learning process, a proposal for continuous evaluation of a formative nature must be offered . This consists of permanent feedback to the student, not only in order to qualify him, but to help him improve and advance his understanding.

In fact, it also implies helping them to improve their learning, since if the evaluation is correctly posed, the evaluation of their own performance occurs automatically. It is a shared responsibility towards learning between students and teachers .

This type of approach (and any other) should offer students clear, relevant, explicit and, above all, public assessment criteria. They must also be present at all times during the process .

One of the most immediate consequences of this assessment approach is the fact that students understand in depth what quality work implies; They are aware at all times throughout their learning process of what is involved in a job well done and, therefore, of what tasks need improvement .

Implications of this type of evaluation

The continuous evaluation implies feedback (both by the teacher and by the peers) that must be given throughout the process. Some evaluation indicators that have a clear and direct relationship with the teaching objectives of the unit must be made explicit. These indicators must help the student to assess their progress, which, in addition, favors the development of their critical spirit.

It involves not only grading the work itself, but also making suggestions to improve it, offering the student clear indications of where to direct their work. Lastly, it requires careful prior planning that makes it meaningful and above all makes it an effective learning tool.

How to carry it out from a distance?

The logical question that the teacher asks is how to carry out all of the above from a distance. What resources are available to you to know if you are achieving those objectives, if your students are learning, taking into account the implicit challenge in the current circumstances. In other words, if learning from home involves abandoning the primary objective of an education aimed at deep and therefore lasting learning.

If the principles that govern competency-based learning are applied , the virtuality derived from this new situation does not have to be an impediment to respecting them. It is true that physical distancing has an impact on the much-needed socialization of learning , not to mention the problem that is often caused by mere access to technology itself.

But that is not the same as saying that continuous assessment of a competency framework is not possible. The challenge will consist, on the one hand, in continuing to apply the pedagogical principles that govern it, that is, forcing students to use content as a means to solve a problem and not as an end in itself.

On the other hand, it will be necessary to design a learning journey that students can document, so that they allow us to observe (and therefore correct and redirect) this journey. The digital portfolio, for example, is a resource available to teachers that allows just that.

Memory test

If all that the teacher intends is to transfer an exam of a memoristic type and exclusively of contents, in effect, the virtuality of the process does not ensure that the student performs said test solely on the basis of what he remembers. However, what was the objective? What, therefore, is the object of evaluation? If that same test is carried out in a classroom under the watchful eye of the teacher, does it guarantee learning? It only reflects the memory capacity of a certain student.

However, a performance-focused teaching model, by knowing how to do and apply, does guarantee solid learning, transferable to other contexts, allowing us to graduate students capable of solving problems in diverse environments.

It will be necessary to design scenarios that allow us to generate tests capable of evaluating to what extent our students solve problems with all the resources at their disposal, as any citizen or professional would do in their daily performance.

Author Bios: Naiara Bilbao Quintana is Professor at the Department of Didactics and School Organization at the University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea and Arantzazu López de la Serna is Professor Faculty of Education of Bilbao / at Irakaslea Bilboko Hezkuntza Fakultatea