It’s no secret—teaching is a tiring job. Teachers’ to-do lists easily pile up, including everything from lesson planning, to managing the classroom, to grading student work. Although most teacher tasks are, by nature, labor intensive and time consuming, there is one that is particularly burdensome: assessment delivery and scoring. Whether it’s in exact terms, such as grades, or simply gaining perspective on whether or not learning has transpired, being aware of the progress of an entire classroom — and each of the individuals within its makeup — is demanding work. Technology, if smartly applied, has the potential to aid both teachers and students in assessment and evaluation.
First thing’s first: How do we know if learning has occurred? As mentioned, teachers need to practice both assessment, or assigning scores and grades, and assessing, or evaluating work and providing feedback to students. How they go about doing that, however, is up to them. The list of options is long, but there are standouts.
LMS. LMSs are a popular choice for 2016, according to an expert panel recently assembled by THE Journal. In the associated article summarizing “What’s Hot, What’s Not in 2016,” Karen Billings, vice president and managing director of the Education Technology Industry Network (ETIN), mentions:
“Learning management systems are hot if called ‘learning platforms,’ an emerging category with a full set of teaching and learning tools, especially on mobile devices. Growth is in the applications where students can access resources a teacher provides and collaborate to share the resources and knowledge they build.”
In addition to making resource access easier through learning management systems, LMS also serve as central portal to class activities including assessment. Many tools can be directly embed in LMSs and the data from these tools can also be integrated into universal gradebooks.
Gaming. Here to prove that even assessing students’ progress can be fun are game-based assessment tools. Most applicable in the K-12 learning environment, schools are more frequently looking for periodic, bite-size assessments that can be carried out innovatively. By leveraging game-design elements and principles, teachers can often take the “test” out of assessment practices, providing more insight without the stigma of test-taking
Data. As teachers utilize more and more digital tools in assessment, the power in technology is unveiled in its ability to aggregate and visualize data. Through dashboards,, which can provide snapshots of individual students as well as classrooms as a whole, teachers can discover patterns trends that are otherwise undetected. Beyond individual teacher applications, the data can also be used to identify school and district-wide highlights and opportunities for improvement.
On the flipside from teachers, are students, who are rarely engaged in the actual assessment of their work, even though it can prove helpful. If self-assessment is encouraged in a formative way, students can also benefit from assessment along the way. Student self-assessment could be in the form of online quizzes with automated, interactive feedback; screen capture software that clarifies goals; online dialogue such as blogging or Internet messaging that provides opportunities to test and correct understanding; e-portfolios that facilitate discussion and reflection; peer moderation tools such as WebPA, or any one of the many available options. Students are likely to learn more if they have end goals in sight, and the ability to self-assess along the way. As Jaclyn Zubrzycki wrote for EdWeek:
“Gust is one of a growing number of schools across the country where student self-assessment is one type of formative assessment that is woven into the school day. The idea is that just as teachers can teach more effectively if they check students’ progress along the way, students can learn more effectively if they understand what they’re working toward and where they are.”
Of course, assessment strategies also vary greatly dependent upon what level of schooling is being analyzed — K-12 or higher ed. Vicki Davis, a computer fundamentals, computer science, and IT integrator, wrote for Edutopia, saying:
“Good teachers in every subject will adjust their teaching based upon what students know at each point. Good formative assessment removes the embarrassment of public hand raising and gives teachers feedback that impacts how they’re teaching at that moment.”
While Davis is speaking specifically about the K-12 environment, her words can be applied to any classroom’s culture. The larger the variance in knowledge mastery of the students, the further the teacher has to lower the “common denominator.” When the only assessment is a large all-encompassing exam, using exams and report cards is too late. Those levels of assessment should be confirming teachers inclinations as to where students are, not establishing them.
Having real-time, specific visibility of pace and progress allows teachers to intervene sooner at an individual level, and thus move everyone along to a higher level faster. Ongoing evaluation not only improves the outcomes for the students, but takes some of the guesswork out of teaching.
1. “Students ‘Self-Assess’ They Way to Learning” Education Week. November 9 2015.
2. “What’s Hot, What’s Not in 2016” THE Journal. January 12 2016.
3. “The K-12 Marketplace: What to Look for in 2016” EdWeek Market Brief. December 31 2015.
4. “Students ‘Self-Assess’ Their Way to Learning” Education Week. November 9 2015.
5. “5 Fantastic, Fast, Formative Assessment Tools” Edutopia. January 15 2015.
6. “Motivate While You Integrate Technology: Online Assessment” Education World. February 28 2006.
7. “How Data From Your LMS Can Impact Student Success” Campus Technology. December 2 2015.
8. “Prof: This tech is a canary in the student outcomes coalmine” eCampus News. October 12 2015.