Jennifer Snelling
A boy looks frustrated while working online

Like many aspects of education, assessments have looked the same for a long time. Typically they take the form of an end-of-unit test or something more immediate, like a quiz using a digital platform like Kahoot.

But with nearly every school around the globe facing some level of remote or hybrid learning, educators are rethinking the best ways to check for understanding and knowledge.

Online learning has presented some assessment challenges to say the least: If students are going to school on their computers, will they just Google the answers? How can a teacher gauge understanding or attention if all they see is a tiny square on a screen, or worse, a black box?

All the more reason to rethink how we assess a student’s learning, says Carl Hooker, an educational consultant and speaker from Austin, Texas. Hooker is a former teacher and administrator and has written six books on mobile learning.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we are locked into our favorite tools when it comes to teaching and learning. Assessment is no different,” Hooker says. “Now, more than ever, it’s important to help students stay focused on process over product by placing less focus on grades and scores and more focus on learning.”

When checking for understanding, Hooker recommends including three types of assessments, all of which play a role in a high-quality classroom. Those include:

  • Assessment of learning.
  • Assessment as learning.
  • Assessment while learning.

Hooker, who will present on this topic at ISTE20 Live, recommends building the assessment framework with your goal in mind. Maybe the goal is a formative assessment to determine where the student is at a particular moment in time. Or perhaps the goal is a more substantive assessment that will provide insight into how the student is thinking about the subject. These considerations will help determine whether the assessment should be synchronous or asynchronous; Googleable or non-Googleable; individual or group.

Assessment of learning.

A traditional formative assessment, often synchronous, is a good way to determine where learning begins. The student is asked to demonstrate achievement, most often using a tool such as Nearpod or Kahoot.

These assessments are particularly beneficial to assess where students are at the beginning of the year or mid-term, giving teachers a sense of where students are and where they need to go.

Assessments for learning.

These types of evaluations give students more ownership over their learning. They may take the form of peer-to-peer assessment, such as asking students to design a quiz for each other. With older students, this can happen early in the school year. With younger kids, it can take some practice.

Conducting assessment synchronously allows for immediate feedback. But asynchronous assessments have several advantages, too. Students get more flexibility around when and how much time they can take to complete them, and they aren’t at the mercy of a sudden internet interruption.

Add voice to personalize the assignment through Flipgrid. The tool allows teachers to hear students talking through the thought process and allows students to hear a teacher’s feedback. It also makes it hard to cheat because students demonstrate what they have learned by talking about it.

Assessment while learning.

These assessments ask students to actively monitor their learning and often take the form of group or individual projects. Hooker recommends a portfolio system, such as Bulb, which gives teachers insight into the students’ learning process by asking them to document reflection before and after the final product.

As a first-grade teacher, Hooker moved students toward “while learning” assessments by the end of the year. He gave them larger project-based learning activities, explained the expectations and asked them to monitor themselves. The benefit was that students sought out things that interested them.

“This pandemic can be an opportunity to diversify our instruction,” Hooker says. “When we get back to ‘normal,' we can finally get to that point of personalized learning that we’ve been talking about for decades.”

Authentic assessments for online and hybrid learning is the topic of Hooker’s ISTE20 Live session, Strategies for Assessing Students Remotely. He also offers an online course called The Remote Learning Coach for schools and districts looking for assistance in remote and hybrid learning. Use code ISTE2020 for 20% off as an ISTE member.

ISTE20 Reinventing Education Together graphic

Jennifer Snelling is a freelance education blogger based in Eugene, Oregon.