EduVoice Part 3: Assessment, From Answer Keys to Rubrics

EduVoice with National Geographic is a series of educational interviews with top Educators discussing issues and opportunities in Education. This episode Where Are We Going Next? : Vietnam’s English National Curriculum with Dr. Hieu Nguyen (CEO, IEG Consulting) and Dr. Nguyen Thanh Binh has attracted 600+ people from 20+ countries. They shared their view on

  • The design and roadmap of the new national curriculum of English

  • The challenges for multiple stakeholders across geographies, segments and school models

  • Potential impacts of the new national curriculum on teaching and learning quality from K-12 to college

  • Systemic solutions for school leaders and teachers to cope with challenges


How to Measure Students' Progress in the new System

Interviewer: As you have said, we are moving away from grammar and vocabulary drilling. So what do you guys see as the changes to assessment?

Dr. Binh: With the new curriculum, assessments focus on students’ competencies. It requires the teachers to look back at the goals of teaching and learning, and look back at the expected learning outcomes. In the past, testing focused on vocabulary or reading text. Now it moves towards assessing four skills and more. There should be a variety of ways to assess students: not just through the tests, but also through observation; not just summative, but also formative assessments. The whole system may have to adjust its way of teaching and learning to match the coming needs of this new curriculum.

Interviewer: So there has to be a shift towards not just summative assessment, but also training teachers, and how to effectively conduct formative assessment, to understand kind of the progress of their students in terms of the skills and not just as a number. This is what I think everyone passionate about education can agree on, and I wish we didn't need these numbers. Do you have anything to add, Dr. Hieu?

Dr. Hieu: I want to echo both of you guys about the importance of formative assessment. We have to assess students through group discussion presentations, projects, and other forms as well, not just multiple choice answers.

For many years, the test focused on phonetics, vocabulary, grammar, grammatical rules, and a lot of things that are not necessarily geared towards competency, but due to his mastery of the language elements. Shifting to competency-based assessment will be a challenge, both in the design, the teaching, and in the scoring work as well, like how you grade essays written by millions of students taking the test a year.

In terms of teaching, the question is how to train the new teachers, and even experienced ones to teach students based on competency and to assess students based on competency so that no matter what the assessment will look like.

Because one fundamental element of competency based teaching is that you don't care about the format of the test. As long as students have the competency, they can ace any test with short amounts of time to prepare for the format.

Teachers must be trained to read the competency descriptors of the national curriculum, have all these amazing materials and textbooks available to them and combine that and use in their classroom so that they could shut my eyes for 11 years and six months, and only focus on teaching the competency and then students can take any type of tests, be it IELTS or TOEFL or anything. I think that could be the sweet spot of doing competency based teaching and assessment. But it's a challenge for a lot of teachers.

See the full interview here.