MZD Leadership Series: Richard Ferguson, Chairman

by | Oct 5, 2020

The future of authentic assessment with our Chairman, Richard Ferguson

Continuing with our leadership team series, we speak with our Chairman of the Board, Dr. Richard Ferguson, about how authentic assessment is transforming the education industry.

Nations rely on the skills of their citizens to move forward on the world stage. Research, technology, engineering, and manufacturing – key drivers of growth – all require an educated population. It’s critical, then, that governments lead the education sector towards assessments that align learning outcomes with practical skills.

Are authentic assessments a crucial step in the evolution of a perfect assessment system? And if so, what role does digital technology play in assisting “citizens” to acquire and apply real-world skills? Well, let’s find out more from Richard Ferguson.

Tell us – why authentic assessment is crucial for the world of tomorrow?

In an ideal world, verifying that individuals’ have acquired the knowledge and skills needed for success in the next level of education or work would involve one-on-one assessments in an actual school or work setting.  Most multiple-choice assessments are designed to approximate that goal but, in the interest of efficiency, rarely come close to accomplishing it.  Performance assessments by their very nature align more closely to the goal.  As a nation whose economic and social well-being relies increasingly on its citizens to acquire and apply the skills that fuel its future success, the assessments used to affirm the acquisition of those skills, a good fit of our assessments to those skills is both desirable – even imperative.

You have been part of the MZD leadership team for over a year now, what excites you most about the work being done?

The MZD family of services is exceptional for many reasons, among them the extensive real-world experience that its Founders (Zac Henrich and Miles Loring) bring to the task of designing and developing its performance-based assessments. They have their experience, and the lessons learned through their industry engagements, to develop a family of tools that are comprehensive, user-friendly, and economical to acquire and apply.

The team maintains their position as a leader in the field through their commitment to continuous refinement and expansion of their programs. Their recent release of EMMA, a state of the art tool using AI to enable essay machine marking automation illustrates this point. MZD focuses solely on performance-based assessment, it is well positioned to retain its reputation as a cutting-edge organization, second to none in the field.

How will assessment organizations evolve in the future?

Weighing in on how assessment companies will evolve over time is a daunting task. It is safe to project, however, that evolving technologies will, as in the past, help to shape the future. The advent of optical scan scoring machines in the 1950s and 1960s revolutionized testing, enabling the timely administration and scoring of standardized testing at scale.  More recently, the introduction of personal computers and software tools that facilitate testing of all types has reshaped the testing industry.  It isn’t a reach to assume that both the character and quality of testing will evolve in the future.

As an example of what we might expect in the future, consider the potential for strengthening the ties between assessment and instruction. In today’s education and working settings, there is typically a disconnect between the two. Technology will enable assessment organizations to customize assessment and instruction, matching the latter to the optimal learning style for the individual. Assessments that effectively facilitate such matching will be critical, thus providing an incentive for organizations to embrace performance-based assessments that better inform the essential matching function.

There you have it – Richard gives us the inside track on what he believes to be the future of assessments. Next week, we’re having a conversation about meeting the challenges of 2020 with Daisy Vickers, VP of Performance Scoring and Research at MZD.

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