Over half of teachers want to adopt online exams

·3-min read
A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders found that nearly 80% of schools and colleges had more requests than pre-pandemic for pupils to take their exams in separate rooms away from the exam hall because of anxiety and stress (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
A survey by the Association of School and College Leaders found that nearly 80% of schools and colleges had more requests than pre-pandemic for pupils to take their exams in separate rooms away from the exam hall because of anxiety and stress (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

New polling has revealed that over half of teachers would adopt online exams now if they were available in their subject.

A survey by exam board Pearson Edexcel of 1,100 teachers revealed that 51% would use onscreen assessment now if it were available in their subject area, while 77% said they would like more technology to be used in teaching and exams.

In total, 95% said that they needed more training in this area.

A report by Pearson found that a lack of good internet connection in schools, security issues, and the digital divide between poorer pupils and their peers could be holding the UK back from adopting online exams at GCSE and A level.

The report also suggests that the “rigidity” of the current exams system, with whole cohorts taking their exams at the same time, could “make the delivery of onscreen assessment more difficult logistically”.

Hayley White, assessment director at Pearson, said that online exams could allow pupils to sit GCSEs or A levels at any point in the year.

“In the future, onscreen assessment could be on-demand making it possible for students to sit exams when they’re ready during the academic year, rather than the current fixed points in the summer,” she said.

Changing the way pupils take exams would also mean that a new, “digital first” curriculum would be needed, the report says.

Maths exam in progress (David Davies/PA) (PA Archive)
Maths exam in progress (David Davies/PA) (PA Archive)

Dr Mick Walker, president of the Chartered Institute of Education Assessors, said: “Our education system is yet to exploit the use of digital technology in the delivery of high-stakes examinations and is out of kilter with developments in the teaching and learning process we now find in our schools, much of which has been accelerated by the pandemic.

“But introducing technological approaches to high volume, high stakes qualifications require considered thought, careful planning and system-wide trials if we are to avoid any pitfalls.”

The report suggests that controversy over exam grading by algorithm in 2020, in the first year of the pandemic when full public exams were cancelled, may have made parents more receptive to changing the format of GCSEs and A levels.

“Controversy over algorithmic grading during the pandemic has also led many parents to consider the exam system for the first time, meaning that they may be more receptive to system changes,” it says.

It adds that online GCSEs could also be adaptive to pupils’ ability, removing the need for tiered exam papers, whereas pupils sitting a foundation tier GCSE paper cannot achieve the top grades, as grades are capped at GCSE Grade 5.

The report’s findings were partly based on roundtable discussions with experts including former Education Secretary Lord Blunkett and Dame Alison Peacock from the Chartered College of Teaching.

Earlier in May, exams regulator Ofqual said it would explore the use of online testing as part of its plans for the next three years.

It said that over the next three years, it will explore new approaches to assessment, including the use of technology, working with exam boards to “explore the role of adaptive testing”.

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