It is widely acknowledged that assessing learning with ICT is a challenging task (Johnson et al. 1994, McDougall 2001, Harrison et al. 2002, Cox et al. 2003). Throughout the development of the use of ICT for learning extensive work has been undertaken on formative evaluation and assessment of software and of innovative projects, but no similar range of effective and retable ways of assessing real learning gains attributable to or associated with the use of ICT has so far been developed.
INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES AMONG LEARNERS
The matter of individual differences among learners has long been an issue in education. Current research is showing that such differences can be dramatically evident and can have a major impact on assessment in settings where ICT is used. Differences in impact on leaking are being observed in case studies of students involved in exactly the same ICT activity. These are exemplified by findings from a research project investigating the effects of the use of ICT in students’ writing, recently completed by John Vincent at the University of Melboume.
ASSESSING LEARNING IN MULTIMEDIA CONTEXTS
Vincent described students, almost completely incapable of expression in words, who produced complex and sophisticated narratives when allowed to work in multimedia environments. Judged solely in verbal terms these students appeared to be severely limited in their ability to express their ideas and understandings. However the multimedia artefacts they produced dramatically belie this assessment.
ASSESSING LEARNING IN COLLABORATIVE GROUPS
The assessment of group learning activities, like the matter of individual differences among learners, is not an issue peculiar to real-life learning. However it is particularly important in real-life learning contexts as leaking through discussions and group activity are very widely used strategies in real-life learning settings.
The paper explores some aspects of the complexity of assessing real-life learning with ICT, focusing on three particular issues. The first is the problem of differences in cognitive styles of learners. Some aspects of this were illustrated with a description of research on school students’ writing, and the extension of this work into a current study of adult learners’ preferences for different software environments for programming for robotics