Some ethical issues arise when it comes to assessment using digital tools in education. The topic recently made headlines when students were allowed to use the Usito dictionary on the 5e secondary. "What if we started by deconstructing the concept of evaluation?" is the question a group of researchers is asking. They recently discussed it at the Acfas conference.
Nicole Monney, a professor at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, is categorical: "Today, we have to think about evaluation differently. Think about having students produce collective work rather than having them take tests where they can easily cheat. Question the students about their work process rather than looking at the final result. In short, we need to deconstruct the concept of evaluation. We have to start with that.
This principle is true for evaluation in general, but the use of digital technology is forcing an acceleration of the thinking about evaluation otherwise that has already begun in some quarters. "It is not the use of digital technology for evaluation that has introduced ethical issues. They were already there," says Audrey Raynault, a professor at Université Laval.
She encourages teachers to think of assessments as interactive and authentic, "so that students can develop a variety of behaviors and skills that will be useful later on." Similarly, in a learning sequence, she says students should have at least three opportunities for feedback before an assessment and should always have access to the rubric in advance.
The challenges of digital tools
The use of digital assessment has introduced new challenges, both in distance assessment and in the provision of digital tools in the classroom (such as electronic dictionaries).
"Assessment with digital presupposes mastery of the digital tool or device being used, but is this really always the case? Students should not be penalized for this," asks Aristide Sorelle Tsayem Tchoupou, a doctoral student at Laval University who conducted a literature review for the project Screen. He also thinks about issues of accessibility to certain digital materials for students. For example, watch out for moving images on the screen if you have students with epilepsy.
On the other hand, he acknowledges that the use of digital tools on some assessments might give some students an advantage. "Are special needs students, who use technology aids on a daily basis, at an advantage or not over others if they use their tools on assessments?"
For Ms. Monney, "the way in which digital work is thought of by the teacher should make it possible to overcome the ethical issues. However, she acknowledges that there is still a long way to go to get there.
"In all cases, evaluation must be designed with justice, inclusion, equity and equal opportunity in mind," says Raynault.