Document Type

Journal Article


World Scientific Publishing Co.


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Education / Centre for Schooling and Learning Technologies




This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of: Newhouse, C. P. (2013). Computer-based exams in schools: Freedom from the limitations of paper?. Electronic version of an article published as: Research and Practice in Technology Enhanced Learning, 8(3), 431-447. Available here


There is little doubt that the curriculum content and pedagogy in schools is driven by the structure and forms of assessment employed, particularly for summative purposes. When most such assessment was limited to what a student could do with a pen and paper in short ‘exams’ this pushed the content of the curriculum towards small descriptive chunks, and the pedagogy towards memorisation and replication techniques. Over the past two decades alternative forms of assessment supported by the power of computer systems have been conceived and tried. This paper discusses progress towards various forms of computer-based exams and how these may encourage curriculum and pedagogy suited to 21st Century learning. In particular it draws attention to research I have led to investigate the feasibility of a number of forms of computer-based exams for high-stakes summative assessment in secondary education. The result was the successful development and implementation of audiovisual stimuli and response computer-based exams, and digital production exams resulting in portfolios of evidence. Each implemented form of exam was tested for feasibility to ensure a defensible balance of manageability, reliability and validity. I believe that for most highstakes summative assessment in Australian schools it is time to replace the ancient paper-based technology with computer-based technologies.

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