Consider the market for point-and-shoot cameras. It is in free-fall. Why? Because the best camera now goes everywhere with you on your smart phone. That is an example of market disruption resulting from innovation. Can the same happen in educational testing? Certainly, and signs of it are starting to emerge.
First is the wrapping of assessment with learning. In the past called “formative assessment,” it is when an assessment is incorporated into the learning material so the student is assessed as they learn, when they learn, on what they learn and provided immediate feedback or remediation when it is most educational. This trend is enhanced by the ubiquitous improvement of technology in the classroom. In the future we may well ask if it is necessary to administer a summative test at the end of the school year when there are already multiple measures of how a student learned and performed across the entire school year.
Another potential market disruption is from online learning. While Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are limited mostly to the college level right now, it is conceivable that K–12 learning would also fit its paradigm. Combined with online assessment, the concept of a virtual classroom is a distinct possibility. As school systems invest in tablets for every student, they are planting the seeds for delivering education online.
Entrenched interests will push against these trends, but ultimately, like Kodak film processing, they will either embrace the innovation or suffer the disruption. It is difficult to predict the future and changes can come from unexpected directions. For example, a market disruption in learning measurement could come from the field of neuroscience that completely changes the educational assessment landscape. Some disruptions are abrupt and others can take a decade to plant strong roots. It would be prudent to consider the rapid pace of change the next time you create a five year plan. You just may need to rethink it all in year three — or less.