Changing assessment methods to prioritise learning
Haylie Taylor, EducationCity’s education consultant and former teacher, explains how effective assessment methods are best achieved when differentiated learning is paired with streamlined evaluation
It’s no surprise that technology is becoming increasingly integrated into education at all levels and is dramatically changing the sector landscape, but what does this mean in the context of assessment? A considerable amount of attention is given to how education technology helps develop personalised learning streams and can store and streamline impressive amounts of student data, however, this is only half the story. Imparting the knowledge to students is one thing, but how is edtech supporting assessment and evaluation practices?
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Increasingly, large digital statement banks are being used to track student progress. However, often operating independently to the curriculum and teaching methods, these systems lose sight of individual student’s strengths and weaknesses and result in generic performance statements. These are great in terms of reducing workload, yet, they do not complement the individual learning pathways that have been established. Just as personalised learning has proved to be an effective way of catering to all students, investing in integrated, automated, and personalised assessment tools is key to completing the learning circle and ensuring that edtech also provides individual evaluation and assessment mapping. What’s more, in a cash-strapped climate, edtech is a significant investment for any school so it follows that any edtech integration should be adopting a holistic approach to education and providing as much support to students and teachers as possible.
Reflecting on my personal teaching experience, I have identified three key considerations for edtech resources that have changed the way I view assessment and prioritise learning outcomes: the provision of immediate feedback, developing revision journals, and producing progress mapping. After all, assessment shouldn’t be a simple regurgitation of facts, it should underscore previous learning and help develop a mastery of knowledge of the curriculum.
Investing in integrated, automated, and personalised assessment tools is key to completing the learning circle and ensuring that edtech also provides individual evaluation and assessment mapping.
Feeding back to students
In my experience, the vacuum of time that exists between students completing homework, quizzes and sitting exams, through to the marking of papers and providing feedback, negatively affects the learning experience for students. Not only have I found that immediate feedback builds confidence for students, it has also made learning a more joyful experience, without diluting the learning experience. It’s as if this instant feedback has added an element of gamification both in the classroom and at home.
Additionally, with marking being one of the least preferred aspects of teaching, the ease of automated marking and immediate feedback also dramatically eases teacher workloads and helps identify more suitable learning pathways. Subsequently, by being able to identify the weaker attainment areas as early in the learning process as possible, teachers are able to offer more individualised support or deeper learning so that a mastery of each concept is achieved.
Creating independent learners
In my opinion, another key aspect of assessment-focused edtech should be the ways in which it helps to create independent learners. It’s a softer skill that doesn’t align to a core subject, however, providing students with a sense of ownership and accountability of their learning will set them up for greater success in the future. What’s more, as teachers, there is only so much knowledge that can be gained in the classroom – students need to also share the responsibility of their learning journey and reinforce what they have learnt through their homework. I’ve found that revision journals are a great way of supporting students in this way as they can be targeted to specific curriculum objectives while also highlighting their strengths and weaknesses, and identifying the areas in which students need to focus their revision tactics and improve.
Not only have I found that immediate feedback builds confidence for students, it has also made learning a more joyful experience, without diluting the learning experience.
Integrating homework and revision into edtech is also an effective way of increasing parental engagement and bringing them into the learning process – after all, they say it takes a village! Sharing the onus with students and parents in this way really emphasises learning in revision and evaluation, but in a targeted way that allows room for individualised and sustainable progress.
Contextualising the individual versus the class
Equally important is the ability to be able to map out progress depending on each individual student as well in the context of the whole class.
Streamlining this process using technology will allow teachers to track student progress in a quick and simple way, helping them to identify strengths and weaknesses throughout the year. All this data will then of course help support lesson planning, and also inform which areas of work need to be tailored in order to suit the levels and abilities of students within the class.
This data will give a good indication of performance both of the individual and across the class as a whole, providing insight into how well students have understood a particular concept. This same information can then be used for other needs including parents’ events, staff meetings and even to help evidence the impact of funding spend.
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In the context of contemporary education, I think it’s safe to say that as a sector, personalised learning and individual learning pathways have been embraced, but as a whole, individual assessment and evaluation methods seem to have been left behind. As a former teacher and advocate for edtech, I’m passionate about finding the most effective ways to support our students. Personalised learning is most definitely the way forward, however, personalised assessment tools are also crucial in order to ensure that students are receiving the right support for the right subjects and are afforded the opportunity to develop a mastery knowledge of the curriculum.