Assessing on the Blockchain.
This year I am again teaching junior science and one thing that I reflected on last year was the nature of assessment. Most assessment I used last year was in the form of a written test at the end of units, essentially I was seeing how they understood the scientific concepts I had taught them over the unit.
Two things concerned me when I considered these assessments, first, is knowing stuff about science the only thing that is worth measuring when it comes to assessing scientific ability and second, I had a large number of neuro-divergent learners in my classroom and was this the best way to even assess their understanding?
Over the last 20 years, there has been a marked change in the direction of students learning about science and about how science works (the processes, practices and people of science) as well as learning science content (the products of science). Due to the enormity of the task, I cannot as a science teacher provide all the science knowledge that they will need, but I can develop a more accurate understanding of how science is a particular way of looking at the world - and something we struggle to assess.
It is my view and that of the New Zealand curriculum that a robust understanding of the scientific way of thinking enables my students to be capable of looking at socio-scientific issues like the recent COVID pandemic and critique what is plausible and meaningful in the ‘scientific’ arguments presented. Students would leave with an awareness of the role and status of scientific knowledge, an appreciation of its history and development, an understanding of the process of scientific inquiry and the awareness that the people who engage in science are part of that society and influenced by it. However, at present this is not what is being assessed, so no potential employer knows that a potential employee has these skills. In particular that students:
- Understand how science works.
- Investigate using science
- Communicate and evaluate scientific ideas.
- Apply their scientific knowledge in real world contexts and in relevant socio-scientific issues.
I needed a mechanism for students to get credit for building on their prior experiences, collaborating to share, communicate and examine their own and others’ scientific knowledge. Credit for asking questions, finding evidence, exploring models, and carrying out investigations and developing simple explanations. Credit that they were engaging with a range of contemporary scientific ideas and were questioning the purposes for which these ideas are constructed and using their growing science knowledge to consider issues of concern to them and making decisions about possible actions - all critical scientific skills.
These skills were not being explicitly assessed and there was no record that students have developed these skills. Take the example of my electronics class, a student may not pass the present assessment, but they may be able to use a multimeter - an important skill - which an employer may not know about as this is not an explicitly shown as being assessed. This is what motivated my idea to use non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as micro-credentials in the form of digital badges.
NFTs are all the rage at the moment and are at a most basic level, a digital artefact in the form of a jpg file for example. However, to truly answer the question of lets contrast NFTs to traditional credentials.
Both are visible either as a scan of the original document on your screen or in the form of the NFT, meaning that you can see them for what they are just as a potential employer can see them. If that is the case, and it obviously is, Simply put, original traceability, which leads to authenticity.