ICT AND THE ASSESSMENT OF HIGHER ORDER ACADEMIC SKILLS: IN SEARCH OF A PEDAGOGICAL PHILOSOPHY?

J. Moir

University of Abertay Dundee (UNITED KINGDOM)
Recent work highlights the difficulties that academic staff encounter in applying information and communication technologies (ICT) to develop higher order academic skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. Although higher education institutional mission statements, learning strategies and course outlines purport the value of these higher order skills, there is still some question about how well academics are equipped to utilize new technologies in assessing them. Despite a rhetoric avowing the benefits of these higher order skills, indeed that they constitute the ‘higher’ in higher education, it has been suggested in recent work that academics set ICT-based assessment tasks up in such a way as to inadvertently lead students on the path towards lower order outcomes (McNeil, Gosper and Xu, 2012).

This is a controversial claim, and one that this papers seeks to explore and critique in terms of challenging the conceptual basis of assessing higher order skills through these technologies. It is argued that the use of digital media in higher education is leading to a focus on students’ ability to use and manipulate of these products as an index of their flexibility and adaptability to the demands of the knowledge economy. ‘New paradigm’ ICT assessment, including learning analytics and integrated formats, designed to foster these new adaptive and creative skills have been hailed as the way forward (Redecker and Johannessen, 2013). However, this connectivist (Siemens (2004) view of learning can easily slide into focusing on competencies rather than higher order skills. The paper seeks to address and situate the place of ICT in assessing higher order academic skills in terms of pedagogical philosophy.