Fabienne van der Kleij: learning takes you places

| Mariska Roersen

Where other students can’t wait to see the day when they won’t have anything to do with tests anymore, Fabienne van der Kleij made it the topic of her PhD. Finishing 19 December, she has become an expert in how feedback in computer-based assessments can contribute to better learning results. It took her to Tel Aviv and Paris, and Brisbane awaits her.

Photo by: Gijs van Ouwerkerk

It was difficult to get a hold of Fabienne. She just came back from Paris, where she was the keynote speaker at the conference of the European Association for Educational Assessment. ‘I had won the New Assessment Research Award, being the keynote speaker was my prize. I was probably the youngest one there, but they really acknowledged me as an expert.’ It was particularly Fabiennes contribution to the clarification of concepts in formative assessment literature that was warmly welcomed. ‘People were craving clarity’

No time for feedback

Before Paris, the PhD candidate had a similar experience in Tel Aviv. This is where her research on the effects of different feedback-types in computer-based assessments made her win another international award. ‘The official deadline to submit papers had already passed when I found out about this opportunity on Linkedin. Fortunately, they moved the deadline, which gave me one week to try and get in. I think I won because my research really fitted the conference theme and they appreciated its quality.’

Fabiennes research focuses on a relatively unexplored area, but computer-based learning is of increasing importance. According to the PhD candidate, who also teaches at the University of Leiden, there is just no time anymore to give extensive individual feedback to every student. ‘If there’s one person who knows how to give good feedback, it would be me. But there’s just no time so you’re automatically restricted to providing the general picture, which can be frustrating at times.’

Paper vs computer

The doctor-to-be executed her research at Cito, the Dutch institute for educational measurement, that also financed her work. She believes one of the benefits of automation is that students can receive direct feedback and don’t have to wait for their lecturer to find a moment to read everything and respond to that. Downside is that the required systems are not really ready yet. ‘As much as we’d like to think we live in a computer era, education is still very paper oriented. I hope my findings will be used to research the topic further, and to start putting it into practice,’ Fabienne explains. ‘Educational apps and online open courses could be a good starting point to do that.’

Fabienne has some other plans for herself, as her biggest adventure is yet to come. ‘I’m emigrating to Australia in January. Me and my husband are going to live in Brisbane, which has been my wish for about six years. I postponed my dream to do this PhD and hope to be able to continue working on this topic. In vast Australia, distant learning is quite common. Now is the perfect time to go.’