Gap in Knowledge: Assessment of ICT v Assessment with ICT

2 January 2007

I have it ingrained in my psyche that one of the key things about doctoral work is the need to prove that one is inquiring into a ‘gap in the knowledge’. This has always been problematic for me. What is knowledge? How do I prove that the gap exists. Simply because I don’t know of something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist (three negatives there…). I might think there is a gap, only to be blissfully unaware that someone else has filled it (or, worse, is filling it as I speak/procrastinate).

Notwithstanding this, the gap in the knowledge that I identify is located somewhere in the aridity that is the apparent dearth of writing on the assessment of ICT. Put assessment and ICT into Google and you get 1.42m results. Most of these appear to be about using ICT in the assessment process. Assessment with ICT.

McCormick (2004), writing for the ERNIST project and elsewhere, cites Macfarlane (2001) and Thelwall (2000) in defining a taxonomy for the relationships between ICT and assessment. While his first category is ‘Assessing ICT skills and understanding’, it would seem that this is ignored in the rest of his paper. There is, instead, focus on use of ICT for assessment and affordances provided by use of ICT in other subjects for the assessment of those subjects. Indeed, Thelwall’s work is solely of computer-aided assessment.

Similarly the EPPI studies on ICT and assessment deal with how it is used in assessment or how it can help assess creative and thinking skills in different ways to other media.

So is there a gap in knowledge? Like Popper, I cannot prove that there is but if there is it is somewhere in all of this mist. How do you know when you’ve found a gap anyway? What does the edge of a gap look like?