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Jan 14, 2016
by Patrick Wilson
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Experts Call for New Approaches to Measure Human Potential

Education experts urge reforms in testing and assessments Fellows discussing ideas during the Session "Untapped Talent: Can better testing and data accelerate creativity in learning and societies?"

Education experts have issued a statement calling for new approaches to measure the breadth of human potential.

The “Salzburg Statement on Realizing Human Potential through Better Use of Assessment and Data in Education” was issued by 41 current leaders and rising talents across policy and practice as well as leading thinkers across the education and technological landscape and those working in the fields of creativity, culture, the arts, neuroscience, predictive analytics and Big Data, from over 15 countries.

According to the Statement they jointly issued: “Assessments and data often struggle to capture the essence and value of cultural differences critical to each community and country’s identity. When based on narrow concepts of achievement and performance they rely too heavily on simplistic tasks, disempower learners and teachers, and contribute little to improving pedagogy and professional development.”

In their Statement, the international experts believe that: “Data can empower teachers, students and learners” and call for “more diverse indicators of creativity as well as knowledge skills of local concern.”

The detailed Statement, which calls on “all key stakeholders in the integrated education system – policymakers, educators, assessment providers and information technologists” to act on a list of recommendations across three areas to promote change, was issued following the five-day program “Untapped Talent: Can better testing and data accelerate creativity in learning and societies?” held by Salzburg Global Seminar, at Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria in December. 

The three areas cover elements of policy investment and the most effective areas to provide complementary funding, methods to make better use of research into education and assessment fields and how to communicate the information gathered so that it can be better understood and be more beneficial to those receiving it.

Referring to the use of Big Data, Michael Nettles, Program Chair as well as senior vice president of session partner ETS, said: “A substantial amount of learning and educational activity already occurs in digital spaces like the cloud: in learning management systems; on web forums and discussions; on social media sites; in online portfolios; and so forth.

“If we are going to link education to the Big Data wagon, then we will need the evidentiary tools to measure the return on our investment — tools that may not yet exist.”

Participant in the session, Joe Hallgarten, director of education at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), remarked on the considerations needed when trying to innovate within education systems: “System-level innovation cannot occur without foundational support for radical change,” he said. “In this sense, it is important to consider the more subtle factors in educational reform. Where do we want power to lie in our education systems?” He asked, “How can assessment systems support wherever we think power should be?” 

The Statement promises a commitment by the Fellows to work together to “accelerate education transformation for tomorrow’s world” within their own countries and to share and collaborate across sectors and to be ambassadors for the statement.

Full text of the Salzburg Statement on Realizing Human Potential through Better Use of Assessment and Data in Education is available here: http://www.salzburgglobal.org/go/558/statement

Download the Statement (PDF)


The Salzburg Global program Untapped Talent: Can Better Testing and Data Accelerate Creativity in Learning and Societies? was hosted in collaboration with the Educational Testing Service (ETS)the National Science Foundation, and the Inter-American Development Bank, and in association with the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). More information on the session can be found here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/558.