Posted by Jim Farrell
The best part of being a product manager is visiting customers. It is inspiring to see your product solving real-world business problems and contributing to the success of many organizations.
I recently got the opportunity to visit some of our customers while attending the European Association of Test Publishers (E-ATP) conference. I have attended this conference for many years in the US (ATP), but this was the first time attending in Europe. Both conferences bring together thought leaders and display real-world examples of how assessment programs benefit organizations — from formative assessment and quizzing to life-and-limb certification and compliance testing.
The highlights of the conference for me this year were the two keynotes, as I felt they were perfect bookends to the conference program (which included many presentations by Questionmark customers and team members).
The first was by Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth), an Associate Professor of Learning Technologies at Plymouth University in South West England. He painted a picture of where we are today with the use of instructional technologies. I have always said it is not the technology but the teaching methods that need to change to improve test scores. The threat of tests does not improve learning: good pedagogy improves learning. Steve compared teaching today to sitting on an airplane — everyone sitting in rows, facing forward, waiting for something to happen. He promoted the use of ipsative assessment ( which our chairman recently wrote about) and trans-literacy, which is showing knowledge across many different types of media. The theme that carried through his keynote was feedback. Feedback is vital to learning but often not included in assessment.
The closing keynote was much more application and less blue sky. The leaders of the session were Sue Stanhope and David Rippon from the Sunderland City Council in the UK. They painted a story of an economy that was going through dramatic change. with job loses throughout the region. By using assessments and job matching, they were able to match people with their strengths and put them into jobs that inspired them. The message is clear: assessment is not just to see what you know. It can be used to guide learning and careers, too. The success stories left everyone excited to take what they learned out into the world of learning, achievement, competency and performance.
Conferences really are a great place to share ideas, knowledge and innovation. I look forward to meeting with Questionmark customers either at the European Questionmark Users Conference in Barcelona, Spain, November 10-12 or at the Questionmark 2014 Users Conference in San Antonio, Texas, March 4 – 7.