Tips for Assessing Students in the 2020-21 School Year

You know that frequently assessing students is a fundamental component of providing quality education. However, assessments are yet another component that you must adapt to meet the 2020 learning conditions. The basic philosophy of evaluations stays the same for face-to-face, hybrid, and remote teaching. Only the tools and methods are changing. In 2020, computer-based assessments are an essential educational tool.

This year the same teacher may have some students learning 100% in person, some that are 100% remote, and some with a hybrid situation. Even in face-to-face instruction, teachers are trying to maintain social distance with their students. All of these factors make paper and pencil assessments practically obsolete.

Luckily, there are great digital platforms to make remote assessments easy, and there are plenty of benefits to computer-based assessments. You may decide to continue using computer-based assessments even when all your students return to receiving all their instruction in person.


A Quick Refresher of Assessment Types

Norm-referenced and criterion-referenced assessments are state-mandated tests to evaluate comprehensive student learning. Teachers do not control these tests’ content and administration, so this blog does not discuss them.

Formative assessments provide information about student progress and confidence level. You use the data to guide your decisions about appropriate next-steps, grouping, and pacing. Independent work, entry and exit tickets, quizzes, polls, class discussions, and quick projects are common formative assessments.

Summative assessments are generally end-of-unit exams that show how well students mastered the material. You use the data to calculate grades, evaluate students’ learning paths, and reflect on your teaching practices. Typical summative assessments include chapter tests, unit tests, midterms, finals, and multi-day projects.


Benefits of Computer-Based Assessments

  • It significantly reduces your time spent checking answers because the digital platform grades the multiple-choice questions for you. Castle Learning even grades questions with single word short answers. Any misspellings would not receive credit.
  • Computer-based tests are less vulnerable than paper tests to being lost or damaged.
  • Digital platforms store students’ assessments in the cloud. It takes only a few keystrokes to see student responses on previous tests. Looking back is helpful in many situations, such as evaluating strengths and weaknesses, preparing for conferences, during the RTI process, and creating MTSS tiers. It also means less clutter and stuffed filing cabinets.
  • Digital platforms allow you to incorporate multimedia into the test. Video and audio enable you to test a broader range of skills. Castle Learning and some other platforms make it easy for you to add accommodations, such as reading the text aloud and extra time.
  • The rich data aggregation tools make gathering insights easier. This feature helps administrators and teachers create actionable strategies for improving instruction. The creators of eDoctrina designed it specifically for rich data aggregation and targeted insights.
  • The automatic scoring and data aggregation tools allow you to progress rapidly from instruction to data analysis to instructional implications. All students, whether remote or face-to-face, have equal access and constraints on the assessments.
  • Aligning the assessment to the standards and instruction is easy because you can customize the assessments easily. Castle Learning’s platform allows you to filter questions by standards.


A Benefit Specific to Computer-Based Formative Assessments

Using formative assessments to drive your instruction requires a quick turn-around time. Any lag time between the moment you finish teaching and using the data reduces its value. Computer-based assessments reduce that lag time to almost zero.


Six Tips for Using Computer-Based Formative Assessments

  1. Minimize student stress by reminding students that you do not use their students’ scores to calculate their final grade. If participation is a problem, you could give a participation or study habits grade.
  2. Create the formative assessment before you give the instruction. The premade assessment acts as a supplement to your lesson plan because it summarizes the main points. Having it made ahead of time means you can assess the students the moment instruction ends.
  3. Make the assessment quick and straightforward to take. Student participation and effort improve when they know that the assessment only takes a few minutes.
  4. Use a variety of assessment types to get different kinds of feedback and keep student engagement high. Some computer-based assessment tools facilitate class discussions, some use games, and some look like traditional tests.
  5. At least some of the time, use formative assessments that look like upcoming summative assessments. Students feel better prepared for summative tests when they have practiced the same format and style.
  6. Use a tool that makes it simple to align course content to assessments. Decreasing your administrative tasks increases your ability to differentiate instruction. Castle Learning has an extensive bank of questions to choose from for most subjects K-12. Both Castle Learning and eDoctrina allow you to make your assessments and upload them to their platform. This feature enables you to use your favorite paper and pencil assessments while enjoying all the benefits of computer-based assessments.


A Benefit Specific to Computer-Based Summative Assessments

Achieving 100% participation is easier using computer-based tests because they offer more flexibility in administering them. One hundred percent participation is vital because summative assessments contribute to a large portion of your students’ final grade. You set the time windows for students to take each test, provide any necessary accommodations, and they take the test from any location with internet access.

If a student is sick or has an emergency, it is easy for you to give them a make-up exam time. Set a new testing window from the comfort of your home. You do not have to be present to administer the test. This flexibility increases students’ ability to take the test when they feel at their best, which increases the validity of the test results.  


Three Tips for Computer-Based Summative Assessments

  1. Lower the temptation for students to cheat. Talk about academic integrity and ask students to sign an honor code about not cheating. Lock the students’ browsers. Create several versions of the test with just a few clicks. Even students sitting next to each other, or texting each other from home, can’t share answers easily. Instead of doing only a few high-stakes tests, consider more frequent low-stakes tests. Low-stakes tests produce less anxiety about making mistakes, which is a common motivation for cheating.
  2. Prepare students for the type of format and questions they will see on the final exams.
  3. Customize the assessment to match the lessons you covered. It is easy to share and reuse tests because you can add or subtract questions with a few clicks. Both eDoctrina and Castle Learning make collaborating easy.


Take the Easiest Path to Competency

Like most educators in 2020, you may be overwhelmed with the number of changes you must make. Even the best computer-based assessments and digital platforms include a learning curve. We invite you to use our free webinars and embedded learning videos to learn all the great features of eDoctrina and Castle Learning. By taking the effort to learn new tools and techniques, you and your students will reap the rewards.

Please remember that we are here to support you. Feel free to call, email, and use the online chat feature, when available. We are all in this together.

Share your thoughts