Using Technology to Make Better Educational Assessments
These days, assessment is somewhat of a loaded word. Particularly in the popular arena, it is often equated with testing, bringing with it polarizing ideas about the costs and benefits of standardization. The idea of using technology for assessment is equally loaded, evoking images of Scantrons and high-stakes decisions based solely on the results of multiple-choice tests.
But while testing is one aspect of online assessment, these concepts are not, and should not be, equivalent. And the usefulness of technology for assessment is not limited to its ability to score thousands of multiple choice answers all in one go. So, the question becomes, how can we shift to an environment in which technology is used in support of high-quality assessments that are meaningful for both teachers and students?
Yeshiva University’s Shira Loewenstein suggests that what is needed is renewed focus on the purpose of assessment: providing information about students’ learning that teachers and students can use together to support and enhance future learning. Below are three ways technology can be used to help assessment achieve its true purpose.
Assessments of digital skills
This is one of the most common uses of technology in the classroom: as a way for students to develop and demonstrate their mastery of digital skills.
A few examples:
- Internet research projects to assess digital information literacy
- Blogs to assess writing and discourse skills
- The creation of presentations and videos to assess multimedia skills
- Group brainstorming using web-based software to assess digital collaboration skills
- Real-time surveys to assess students’ understanding during content delivery
Instant grading and feedback
Today, technology can be used to grade many types of questions, as well as provide the instant feedback on performance that is essential for learning. Assessment creation tools are available online for free, and teachers can use them to design all manner of exercises, quizzes, and tests. The software can also automatically grade a variety of question types, including matching, identification, and short answer, as well as provide instant personalized feedback to students.
Greater efficiency in scoring objective questions also means teachers have more time and energy to devote to grading more time-consuming types of assessments, such as essays and projects.
Assessment-driven adaptive learning
The core advantage of adaptive learning is its ability to deliver instruction that is personalized to the needs of each student. Assessment-driven adaptive learning is an approach in which the system uses student performance on assessments to make adjustments to the learning materials in real time. Alternatively, these systems can be used to monitor student performance and provide data that instructors can use to alter their teaching approach to better meet the learning needs of their students.
Technology in education assessment no longer just means using machines to grade multiple-choice tests. With the powerful (and mostly free) tools available today, students can use technology to demonstrate their skills, and teachers can use it to give students valuable feedback.