Sep 27 2019

Assessment Innovation in K–12 Levels the Playing Field for Students

Innovations, such as gaming, automation and AI, can help make tests more equitable for all students.

As we roll further into the information age and our use of technology continues to evolve, so too does our ability to assess students.

Educators consistently share that assessments need to closely mirror classroom instruction and real-life situations students may encounter. Assessments should measure students’ knowledge and skills and not focus on recalling facts in isolation. 

More important, assessments need to inform instruction in a timely fashion — so much so that even the scheduling of tests needs to be considered. 

For example, tests could be offered when a student is ready to demonstrate mastery of a skill or concept rather than during a specific window of time at the end of a school year

These assessment changes are possible because of technology. The paper-pencil test is a relic; adaptive tests are the future. Innovations in technology are providing solutions that make assessments more engaging, accessible, timely and reliable.

It’s all about personalization, and technology is key to allowing the content and timing of tests to be geared toward individual students. Thanks to their adaptive nature, computer-based tests can adjust to offer a true measure of knowledge and ability. 

As a student progresses through a test, questions conform to assess the ability level of the student and provide the educator with more in-depth analysis of where the student is on their path toward proficiency. 

Developments in gaming technology provide the resources and innovation for computer-based tests. 

The use of this approach has shown promising results; for instance, a number of school districts in Georgia are exploring the use of games to support teaching early-grade math concepts, such as place value and the use of tables and graphs. 

Data collected at the individual and class level measure mastery of these concepts.

MORE FROM EDTECH: See how technology is helping K–12 schools design summative and formative assessments.

Boost Engagement During Testing with Technology

NWEA, a non-profit organization that creates student assessment solutions, is researching the effects of disengagement during test taking and its impact on accurately measuring achievement. Technology has a role to play in maintaining high engagement during a test, or alerting the test giver when engagement drops and evaluating the effect of disengagement on overall scores.

Developments in artificial intelligence are providing useful applications for assessment. 

Innovations in technology are providing solutions that make assessments more engaging, accessible, timely and reliable.”

Mike Nesterak Senior Director, NWEA’s Product Innovation Center

AI is used in computer-based tests to score constructed responses, eliminating the need for time-consuming hand scoring — for example, analyzing large sets of student response data to look at patterns of performance. 

This may result in the development of empirically derived learning progressions for individual students.

AI can also be used as an assessment platform, allowing students to have a Socratic conversation with an avatar to define a problem and develop a solution. In this case, the platform would house the conversation and analyze it for efficiency and accuracy of the solution.

MORE FROM EDTECH: Check out how AI is making an authentic impact on K–12 classrooms for teachers and students.

Redefine Measures of Student Performance with AR and VR

Conversational computing is another example of AI that can be used to enhance assessment models. 

The NWEA developed an automated reading fluency assessment, MAP Reading Fluency, which uses this technology to automatically score students’ oral reading and produce immediate feedback. 

Other emerging technologies are being considered for use as assessment tools. Augmented and virtual reality have the potential to redefine how we measure students’ performance by providing environments that allow them to demonstrate their ability to apply knowledge and skills to unique situations.

While technology is helping assessments become more relevant and reliable, tests may also become more equitable, exposing more students to a broad range of information through digital field trips, literature and various instructional approaches. 

This exposure may help level the playing field for all students, as assessments often rely on background information.

Technology could make assessments more accessible for students, especially those who are intimidated by current test designs. 

This may result in a more accurate and fair representation of what each student knows and can do

Ultimately, this will allow educators to assess the knowledge and skills of all students, and ensure that all have an equal opportunity to learn.

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