What Role Can Technology Play in Assessment?

With the cancellation of exams in the summer, the subject of assessment has been brought to the fore.  The short-term exam preparation phenomenon of ‘teaching to the test’ will have temporarily disappeared and some will be thankful of that, but does this give us a unique chance to explore and adopt other methods of continuous assessment perhaps on a more permanent basis?

 

Continuous assessment offers the opportunity to improve teaching and learning for the benefit of the student by affording the ability to identify and address knowledge gaps in a timely manner.  It can remove the bias towards narrow teaching and cramming where exams are involved, therefore potentially improving long-term educational outcomes for all.

 

Fiona Goddard talks about assessmentWe also know high-stakes assessment has often been criticised for the anxiety it creates.  With the rise in mental health issues amongst young people, given all they have had to deal with in the past two years in relation to the Pandemic and lost opportunities for learning, should we be doing more to minimise situations which put children under any more stress such as assessment related anxiety?

 

 

Further, given the learning loss due to the disruption of COVID which still continues to interrupt classroom lessons on an ongoing basis, the challenge is for teachers to assess where individual pupils are now in relation to their knowledge and plan the best approach to help them move forwards.  While it is accepted that there has been learning loss and many students are possibly not where they should be or where we would like them to be, how this is assessed, presented and how it is addressed also needs to be carefully managed to ensure students don’t feel penalised for something that is not their fault and to ensure teachers do not become overwhelmed.

 

I’d like to suggest that technology can play a role here.  Moving forward needs to be about recalibrating the curriculum, reconnecting with students and building confidence.  Informal assessments which avoid further stress can identify gaps in learning to help secure firm foundations moving forwards with an emphasis on quality over quantity.  Tools such as virtual tutoring platforms can off additional support in terms of assessment and to scaffold learning.

 

A virtual tutor is an automated online system that simulates behaviours of a human tutor.  While not designed to replace one-to-one human interaction, virtual tutors can offer teachers and students additional support, providing content which adapts to different levels of attainment and pace of learning.

 

As a by-product of learning, a virtual tutor such as Whizz Education’s Maths-Whizz Tutor for example, constantly generates data analytics in real-time, providing continuous assessment data.  This has allowed teachers and Whizz to track learning progress and loss and identify where children need further support on different topics.  We have found that the Maths Ages of students determined over time by continuous assessment informs teachers where to focus the class teaching or where to focus the virtual tutor or face-to-face teaching.  This continuous assessment data can support formative assessment, reducing the burden for teachers and the anxiety over high stakes summative tests for students.   

 

Jo Kerkham, Head of School and Snowy Owls Class Teacher, Brisley Church of England Primary Academy explains:  “Maths-Whizz keeps skills simmering and knowledge up-to-date across the board.  It’s also a great assessment tool as progress and knowledge gaps are easy to identify.  This feedback helps teachers understand which areas to focus on to develop further learning.”

In this way technology, can be used to provide individualised support within different contexts, including assessment, identifying gaps, motivation and confidence building due to the fun, interactive nature of the solution.

 

Whatever our assessment mechanisms – formative or summative, low stakes or high – we must recognise there are always trade-offs to be made. When it comes to evaluating schools, informing teachers and motivating students, formative assessment is more than fit for purpose, without the stress inducing side effects!  Perhaps now is the perfect time to take advantage of the lessons learned during the COVID restrictions to see how exam alternatives could offer better options for students and support teachers with prioritising lesson planning for improved learning outcomes at the same time.

Article by Fiona Goddard, Education Consultant, Whizz Education

For further information please see:  www.whizz.com