The future of examinations in crafts and industry? Possibilities, trends, hurdles

Results of the expert talk at Christiani

About 20 experts from scientific institutes, companies, chambers of commerce and industry, chambers of crafts and trades and associations discussed the future of written examinations in vocational education and training at a think tank.
The following people in particular contributed to the expert talk:

  • Christian Hollmann, Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung
  • Anja Schwarz, Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag, e.V.
  • Thomas Reiter, Kuratorium der Deutschen Wirtschaft für Berufsbildung (KWB)
  • Daniel Winkler, Zentralverband Deutsches Kraftfahrzeuggewerbe
  • Dietmar Berndt, Landesverband Metall Niedersachsen / Bremen
  • Viktor Esau, Leiter Ausbildung, Claas KGaA mbH
  • Ingo Fischer, Unternehmer, Rolf Fischer GmbH
  • Carsten Taudt, IHK Nord Westfalen
  • Klaus Bourdick, IHK Arnsberg
  • Bernd Wienecke, IHK Arnsberg

The following points in particular became clear:

Correction and organisational efforts are major challenges with the current, analogue Chamber of Trade and Commerce and Chambers of Crafts and Industry examinations.

Numerous volunteer examiners currently have to be recruited, organised and paid for the correction of the written examination alone, in order to correct the many free-text tasks. Often barely legible handwriting and a great deal of discretion on the part of the examiners as to how answers to free-text questions are to be specifically assessed present further challenges.

More fairness in examinations and evaluation in real time are advantages of the written digital examinations

There are different types of examination questions such as single-choice, multiple-choice, K-prime, matching or gap-fill questions, which can already be evaluated in real time in digital platforms – without taking up the precious time of volunteer examiners for correction. However, the examiners are needed more in the run-up to the task creation for questions about the difficulty level of a task, point system and others. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that the use of volunteer examiners in digital written examinations will lead to more efficiency.

Increasing openness for digital exams

While a few years ago there were still pronounced reservations about the introduction of digital examinations, a positive trend can now be observed: Key stakeholders are showing openness to the introduction in the area of written examinations. Meanwhile, new forms of examination in the area of practical examinations, for example with augmented reality, are not yet expected in the next few years.

Numerous hurdles still have to be overcome

Be it definitional, technological or organisational questions, there is still a need for clarification in all these areas in order to be able to design the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and Chamber of Crafts and Industry examinations digitally across the board. At the same time, these are all hurdles that can be overcome. For example, the question of the law will be solvable from the experts’ point of view if a convincing model is presented.

Pilot projects are promising, but digitisation must not become an end in itself

A digital examination throughout Germany for all technical professions is not a realistic scenario, but step-by-step pilot projects with different designs are. In particular, the respective professions and trades should be taken into account with suitable types of tasks and media. And in all of this: always proceed with a view to quality assurance and didactic added value. All experts rejected digitisation for its own sake.

Promote information and transparency

Last but not least, information and transparency towards all key stakeholders should be improved. Many key stakeholders are not aware of the opportunities and possibilities of digital examinations. Benefits, threats and challenges need to be made visible.