Comparing the Education Festival 2023

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Education Festival held at Wellington College here in the UK. I attended the same event last year and found it particularly valuable to test the overall 'temperature' of sector as it attracts such a diverse group in large numbers and a number of influential speakers. While I have a particular interest in all things assessment this is great opportunity to get closer to other related issues, especially curriculum and pedagogy.

RM Compare at the Festival

For the second year running we had a couple of partners presenting research findings they have made through work with RM Compare.

Dr. Eva Hartell (Head of Education and Research at KTH Royal Institute of Technology) presented a session about the use of Comparative Judgement for formative assessment (STEM). In it she talked about how it can be applied in various settings, especially as a facilitator for peer assessment in STEM Ed.

The second example was provided by Amanda Moorghen (Head of Research and Impact at Voice 21) who provided an update on her teams work in oracy assessment. This talk garnered high levels of interest coinciding as it did with an important policy announcement from the Labour Party which included a commitment to oracy education should they get elected.

Artificial Intelligence everywhere

What a difference a year makes! It was almost impossible to avoid AI as a key interest area.

In many cases what I was able to see reminded me a bit of watching a dog chasing a ball in a park in the sense that there was huge excitement and fun but not much strategy! This is I guess to be expected however it was good to hear some more considered and thoughtful points of view.

Jo Saxton (Ofqual Chief Regulator) presented on the future of assessment from a system perspective. Her view on AI was cautious and highlighted a number of concerns. Some of these were practical, for example the challenge of technology infrastructure across the UK and its impact on accessibility and fairness. Just as important was the matter of dignity of human assessment, something we have talked about before - 'just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should do it'. Overall it seems that AI in high stakes assessment is an area quite rightly being treated with caution. Expect progress to be limited and slow.

Equally considered was the talk by Morgan Dee (Director of AI and Data Science at Educate Ventures) who tackled the need to balance the potential benefits and the ethical implications of AI in education. " On the one hand, AI can enhance education, enabling teachers to tailor instruction to individual students' needs and providing more accurate assessments of their progress. On the other hand, there are concerns about data privacy, algorithmic bias, students cheating and poor-quality products being mis sold. Additionally, there are even more extreme negative impacts, such as the spread of misinformation and deepfakes.". Indeed.

Finally, Daisy Christodoulou MBE shared some learnings taken from research undertaken to see if AI can help to improve and speed up marking and feedback. Daisy ended an engaging talk by offering some grades of her own around the potential of Large Language Models (LLMs) to make a positive impact in this area. It's fair to say that, at least for now, the promised transformational potential is some way off!

Final thoughts

At RM Compare we are of the view that perhaps the true value of AI in education right now is that it will help us to rediscover our humanity. We believe it will challenge us to return to the very purpose of education and in doing so to think even more carefully about what we consider to be valuable. Comparative Judgement, and its approach to uncovering true value, is well placed to help in this exciting endeavour.