As digital learning becomes more prevalent in K12 education, teachers and administrators are continually looking for tools that support their students throughout the course. When it comes to testing, educators can leverage new, responsive technology that enables them to move away from strict, quantitative exams in favor of “Authentic Assessments.”
Authentic assessments allow students to actively participate in learning outcomes by demonstrating the skills they’ve learned, all in a digital environment.
These assessments challenge students in new ways and foster success by ensuring they understand the course curriculum and how to apply it moving forward. Furthermore, authentic assessments offer better teaching insights than their traditional counterparts and give educators a clear view of student retention and mastery.
In this blog, we’ll share four ways you can create authentic assessments that empower your students and enable you to refine learning and assessment tools for better learning outcomes.
#1 Don’t Underestimate Formative Assessments
At a high level, educators typically divide assessments into two categories: summative and formative. Summative assessments evaluate student learning against a preset standard or benchmark, usually at the end of a unit or course. These exams are typically ‘high stakes’ and significantly impact student grades and quantitative performance metrics.
Formative assessments help educators monitor student learning to provide feedback and adjust their teaching throughout a course to improve student learning outcomes. While formative assessments are usually ‘low stakes’ and won’t necessarily contribute to final course grades, they’re a critical piece of the teaching (and learning) experience that helps identify students’ strengths and address problem areas before they become a hindrance.
Use formative assessments to inform your teaching strategy across the semester or academic year and glean a qualitative understanding of student performance.
Formative assessments may ask students to:
- Draw a chart or concept map that illustrates how a set of terms or ideas relate.
- Submit a free-response summary of main points after a lecture or learning module.
- Turn in proposals, outlines, and drafts throughout the essay writing process to get feedback early on.
Formative assessments allow students to demonstrate their applied knowledge of a subject instead of relaying memorized vocabulary words or using the process of elimination to ‘beat’ a multiple-choice quiz. They give teachers invaluable insights into how well each student understands a specific subject matter to modify the curriculum to improve student attainment. They can provide critical feedback and course-correct throughout the semester to give students the best chance for success when taking their summative final exam.
#2 Empower Students with Adaptive Exams
While formative assessments help students learn more effectively throughout the year, they aren’t the only digital testing tool that can help educators create more authentic, insightful exams. Adaptive exam questions measure student success far beyond memorization and generic one-size-fits-all assessments.
Instead of relying on an outdated multiple-choice exam curriculum, create adaptive exams that quite literally adapt to how your students best demonstrate their mastery of a subject. During a computer-adaptive test (CAT), each question administered depends on how a student answered the previous one.
The flexible, intuitive CAT structure ensures each student can demonstrate their actual knowledge and supports their learning and engagement styles. This results in an accurate assessment of their subject mastery instead of their memorization skills or clever test-taking ‘tricks’ that help them complete a paper test without really comprehending or retaining information in class or during study time.
#3 Use A.I. to Measure Critical Thinking Skills
Educators use a range of tools and techniques to help students succeed in each course they teach. Student performance and learning outcomes are critical success measures. However, teachers also strive to help students apply new concepts, which is especially challenging in eLearning environments where they can’t demonstrate skills the same way they would in a classroom setting.
Virtual reality(VR) and augmented reality(AR) learning and testing tools give students active, experiential learning opportunities, such as:
- recreating a chemical reaction in an online science lab
- exploring a virtual ecosystem to identify wildlife
- editing their writing on the front page of a newspaper
They help students visualize abstract concepts and accommodate various learning styles, which is especially valuable for kinesthetic learners who aren’t easily motivated in traditional learning environments.
Adopt A.I. tools to improve student engagement and interactivity, which ultimately leads to better learning outcomes and long-term retention. These tools can support learning throughout a course, then test critical thinking and application skills during an assessment. They also typically include automatic grading, scoring, and analytics tools for educators, saving time and informing teaching strategies by giving teachers detailed insights into student performance.
The Bottom Line: Find the Right Digital Assessment Tool
Powerful digital tools are shaping the future of interoperability in distance learning. As teachers look for new ways to accommodate remote students, create more effective exams, or keep students engaged, they need a digital assessment system that includes the tools they need to support their students and fellow staff members.
If you’re looking to upgrade your digital assessment toolset, learn which feature can make or break a new solution in our Practical Guide to Digital Assessment. In it, we’ll help you find a digital assessment platform that smoothly integrates into your existing systems, enables student success, and provides actionable insights for more effective testing across your organization.