Phill Dawson reflects on the TEQSA 2023 Conference

In our first post for 2024 Professor Phill Dawson, Co-Director of CRADLE, reflects on the TEQSA 2023 conference. The theme was Reshaping higher education. Phill was involved in the development of key guidelines for assessment reform in the age of AI, which were unveiled at the conference.

What is the TEQSA Conference?

The TEQSA Conference is an annual two-day event. The first day is a series of workshops, and we ran workshop around the new TEQSA materials on generative AI (genAI) and assessment. The second day is much bigger in a larger venue with more presentations. Federal Education Minister, the Honorary Jason Clare MP, spoke about the Australian Universities Accord and potentially addressing ‘placement poverty’.

‘Placement poverty’ is where students have to do a placement but they need to spend a lot of their own money to get there. Students also don’t get paid during placements so many are giving up paid work to do the placement. It was quite exciting to hear that this might be addressed as part of the Accord.

There were also conversations about not trying to secure every single act of assessment against genAI. If there aren’t assessment moments where students can use generative AI and those be assessment of learning moments, how are we going to prepare students for that world?

How do we adjust our assessments for genAI?

We’ve been working on genAI guidelines about addressing the challenges of genAI in assessment. We developed these through talking with 18 experts from across the sector, ranging from researchers to academic developers, educational designers, and senior executives. We got a 75% consensus on how we should address assessment reform in the age of artificial intelligence, as there’s so much divergence in the views.

We arrived at two overall guiding principles and five operational propositions that will help to address the challenges of genAI.

What are the Guiding Principles?

Assessment and learning experiences equip students to participate ethically and actively in a society where AI is ubiquitous.

gray steel chain on orange surface

Forming trustworthy judgements about student learning in a time of AI requires multiple, inclusive and contextualised approaches to assessment.

These guiding principles build on the fundamentals of assessment design that people already know, as the first principle sounds a lot like assessment for learning. This is the idea that we want to prepare students for the world where genAI is everywhere.

The second is more of an assessment of learning principle. We still need to assess what students are capable of and we can’t do that in just one moment of assessment – we need multiple moments of assessment to really know what our students are capable of. Sometimes that might involve them using AI but sometimes we might need them not to.

So, how do we actually do this?

We have developed five propositions that are connected to the higher-level guiding principles but make things a bit more practical.

Assessment should emphasise:

  1. … appropriate, authentic engagement with AI
  2. … a systematic approach to program assessment aligned with disciplines/qualifications
  3. … the process of learning
  4. … opportunities for students to work appropriately with each other and AI
  5. … security at meaningful points across a program to inform decisions about progression and completion

Each Australian university needs to provide a credible action plan to TEQSA by June 2024 about how they plan on dealing with genAI and assessment, so these guidelines will be crucial. But they are very much ‘a compass but not a map’ to use the words of the project lead, Jason Lodge. How this works out for different contexts and disciplines will be fascinating to see.

Where can I find out more?

Download the TEQSA Assessment reform for the age of artificial intelligence guide, re-visit the popular CRADLE & TEQSA genAI webinar series from 2023, visit the TEQSA website for more resources or check our CRADLE Suggests… guide to assessment and genAI. Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date with the latest genAI higher education issues and find out about our popular seminar series for 2024.

Lodge, J. M., Howard, S., Bearman, M., Dawson, P, & Associates (2023).
Assessment reform for the age of Artificial Intelligence. Tertiary Education Quality and
Standards Agency.

About Phill Dawson

Professor Phillip (Phill) Dawson is Co-Director of CRADLE. Phill researches assessment in higher education, focusing on feedback and cheating, predominantly in digital learning contexts. His book Defending Assessment Security in a Digital World explores how cheating is changing and what educators can do about it.

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