Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Rethinking Assessments during COVID-19 and Beyond

The pandemic has caused us to make many changes in our everyday life, causing businesses to re-think their business strategies to remain relevant and open during these challenging times. It’s no different for education. For centuries, “school” has remained consistent and almost unchanged overall. 

With people all over the world making and implementing new plans and new ways of doing things, we wanted to focus on the topic of assessment for this blog post.  

There are some hard questions that have been raised by educators about assessment:

  • Is formative and summative assessment necessary during the pandemic?
  • Do tests need to be proctored and/or timed?
  • Can it really be considered an assessment if students are allowed to use notes and resources to craft their answers?
  • Is it possible to move beyond assessing what students know to what students can do with their knowledge (apply, create, iterate, solve)?
  • Are we measuring what we value?
  • How can we use technology to assist in the creation of authentic and interactive assessments?

Matt Enlow’s tweet on December 2 started a thread that gave insight into changes that teachers were making and although there is no one size fits all assessment solution, there are ways in which we can grow and assess better.

Below are five ways we found that assessments and final exams might be given and adapted during COVID-19 and beyond. 

1. Student Choice

Design tasks that allow students to spiral back through the most important standards you have covered during the semester.  Let students earn points for the challenges that they take on. Here's a challenge board that teachers can customize.  Another way to approach this type of assessment is to list the standard and then it’s the student’s job to submit evidence that they understand or have mastered it. The length of time across the bottom of the board could be adjusted to grading periods or to the complexity of the challenge. An example of a product that might be submitted was created by high school student, Shirley Zhu, “Combinatorics: Sticks and Stones”  

2. Evidence of Mastery using Flipgrid 

Create a Slide Deck and have each slide with a standard or learning target that students can submit a flipgrid response to. Check out the Bingo Card he created for students and the Slide Deck with Instructions.  Students are presenting evidence and it’s in short snippets. If they are recording something in Flipgrid, it’s specific and not drawn out. They hit their target and move on to show evidence on the next standard in another Flipgrid submission.  Everything is linked in a slide deck which makes it organized and easy for the teacher to assess. 
     **Pro Tip: To make assessing the Flipgrid responses quick and efficient, organize students as individual topics in flipgrid.  Greg Kulowiec explains this hack here

3. Final Exams or Epic Finales by Anthony Crider
Could exam week become the best week of the year?  Anthony Crider took the traditional exam and flipped it upside down to create a culminating experience at the end of the semester.  After seeing a colleague tackle a final by asking one really good question, he set out to do the same thing. 
“It took me longer to come up with that one good question than it did to pick 100 questions for my introductory astronomy class. I also trimmed the question down to be as short as possible, requiring students to “unpack” it even before answering it. As one student wrote to me afterward, “I think I spent as much time figuring out what the question was asking as I did answering the question.” 
“The unspoken truth of education is that we don’t want students just to learn the material; we want them to want to learn the material. The final exam closes the book on a semester of learning. An epic finale primes the students to discuss the topic for weeks (or years) to come and to leave the classroom amid a bit more awesomeness than when they arrived.”

4. A Google-Proof Assessment
Developing an assessment that allows students to use their notes and the resources that are available to them on a daily basis.  It is a question that can not be directly answered via Google because it requires analysis, interpretation, and application. The web will be a very helpful resource for students in collecting information related to these questions, but search engines will not lead to easy answers. Use Blooms Digital Taxonomy, adapted by Andrew Churches, to help craft questions that cause the learner to create, evaluate and analyze. Creating these questions will take time and practice. Get with your team and divide the learning targets that you’ll be accessing and use this template to help develop your questions. 

5. ePortfolio - Collecting Evidence of Learning   

A portfolio allows the assessment to shift and have the learner own the assessment process.  John Spencer has a great collection of resources to help establish a portfolio process to collect evidence of learning and has included steps to take while curating a portfolio during distance learning. 

What sets people apart from others in the 21st century is knowing what to do with the information that is available to them, not simply having the information. Developing the skills of curation, evaluation, synthesis, and application should be goals within any assessment.   

How might the next assessment you develop look different? How would you lead teachers to re-think and change their assessments?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jennifer and Deborah,
    I enjoyed reading this blog very much. As I begin my second year teaching kindergarten, I realize that assessments have always been tricky for me to implement with my students, during COVID or not. Many of the tests we implement in kindergarten are our benchmark tests. These tests are all timed for one minute. I recognize that my students get anxious/nervous during assessments because they feel rushed, and therefore they cannot show their knowledge accurately. It can be frustrating and upsetting to see our students upset themselves because they think they did not do well on the tests. I have realized that I can repeatedly tell them to try their best, but that does not always enhance their confidence or help them perform accurately. It is upsetting when I am analyzing the data and notice that a few of my students' data is inaccurate due to the timing part of the test. I think that timed tests need to be researched and observed to understand that they may not be the best route for students to share their knowledge. As an educator, we must become a teacher leader on topics we are passionate about (Ackerman & Mackenzie, 2007). I am passionate about allowing students to share their knowledge in a way that makes sense for them. You mention student choice as a way for students to complete assessments. This stood out to me because, as we know, there are many ways that students can learn, and therefore there are many ways that students can express their knowledge. Why should students only get one choice to express their knowledge? Allowing students to make choices in the classroom can increase their engagement (Parker et al., 2017). Due to increased student engagement, I think student choice is crucial when it comes to assessments. I believe students would be more motivated to share their knowledge.


    Parker, F., Novak, J., & Bartell, T. (2017). To engage students, give them
    meaningful choices in the classroom. PHI DELTA KAPPAN, 99(2), 37–41.

    Ackerman, R., & Mackenzie, S. (2007). Uncovering teacher leadership: Essays and
    voices from the field. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.