ECI 833 – “How do you know what you Know?”

This is an age-old question that the education world and most societies have sought to discover an answer to. How do we objectively assess learning, and what one knows in an effective, efficient way that can be reliable and valid over time. Spoiler Alert –> It does feel like a tough task to have a sufficient solution to this question. Perhaps, simply understanding that assessment is a very complex process that can take many different formats is a start to conceptualizing what a solution might look like to that question. I have really liked Hattie’s (2004) work that focuses on student learning as a “Rope” analogy that single strands all connected together provide strength through overlapping and it’s important to recognize these strands in each of our students when we assess their learning.

“Assessment is not a spreadsheet, it’s a conversation.”

I love that quote above, and I feel like it captures an authentic view of how learning can occur and the simplistic nature of this process. However, I realize that it is very challenging to attach a grade or percent to a conversation, and the subjectivity that can cloud this process. Reading the article listed here, I can understand why education has made changes in assessment and judgment in the 20th century from only one individual evaluating someone to a more objective format of multiple-choice assessments. And, these changes were to create more objective and consistent means for evaluating knowledge. Still, it does appear we created a model that values efficiency over effectiveness for assessing knowledge. And, these notions of efficiency can still be felt in modern classrooms. However, I do think there needs to be a balanced approach in this process, but it is tricky to find a method that will cohesively fit into this format.

Another tricky facet of this assessment process surrounds the definition of what we as educators deem “good” citizens and the assessments that teachers create to mold and cultivate this outcome. This is an age-old debate about what it means to define a “good” student, and how we as teachers foster that process and effectively assess that definition. These definitions are deeply connected to our philosophical worldviews, and the various theories of learning that guide our practice. It is important to be cognizant of the context of these worldviews and theories that impact our understanding of assessment because that forms a framework that can be consistently reflected, and adjusted against best practices from year to year.

It is so valuable that we as educators continually reflect on the technology assessments we introduce in the classroom. If we randomly start using new assessment tools for the sake of flashy new things to increase engagement, then when is the purpose of this technology. I would hope that based on the paragraph above, teachers carefully select assessment technology and trial it for its use that meets higher levels of thinking. However, I understand and empathize with how exhausting it is to test out each tool. And, the time and energy needed in this process and is not afforded in a typical workday. So, it is difficult to break out of the mold of relying on dated assessments to produce the same data. And, the time consumed to scan new assessment technologies that connect with the same learning theories as before seems pointless. I can see why it is so appealing for educators to find the most efficient method for assessment technologies that do not value higher levels of learning compared to discovering an effective one that could do both.

However, I still think there is hope that this can change as more people spend time furthering their education about assessment technologies, but it is not an equitable option for all teachers. So, we can continue to hope that small changes can domino into bigger shifts in assessment policy and philosophies.

Please let me know what you think is a possible solution to the above dilemma, or an assessment technology that you find really makes your day as a teacher so much easier.

Does the Assessment Pass the Test?

Assessment is defined by the University of Alberta as “the state or condition of learning. An instructor assesses learning through both observation and measurement in an attempt to better understand students’ learning in a course. This includes collecting evidence, both graded and non-graded, about a students’ progression in the course.” As educators, we know that good assessment lets the student show, explain, demonstrate to the instructor as much as they can about the concept being assessed. However, as educators, we are also aware that this is not always possible given the number of students in each class, and the differentiation needed in each class. As a result we use assessment techniques that are quick and convenient, and hopefully give timely feedback to the student.

As a high school student, I often took finals using Scantron. Filling bubbles for multiple choice exams or maybe a few true and false questions. While there may be some value to multiple choice and true and false questions, in the end, it assessed my ability to suss out the question that was worded best, related best or I was guessing.

Even after studying, wording questions to trick students or ‘needle in a haystack questions’ is not a true assessment of students’ knowledge or abilities. As a student, I often left those exams feeling as though I did show my teachers what I knew. While I do not feel good about Scantron as a final exam assessment, this is a good way to give students quick feedback as Exit tickets, mid semester or as a check-in.

The new version of Scantron is called Zipgrade. It is still filling in bubbles, using multiple choice and true and false questions. Rather than putting the card through the scanner like you would for Scantron, Zipgrade is an app. You simply load the answers into the app and use your phone to scan the students assessment. The assessments can be analyzed by question, mean scores can be given, and grades are immediate. While this is very fast feedback, the same pros and cons exist with Scantron.

As I looked for new and fun ways to assess students, I was quickly turned onto Kahoot! I used this several times to the delight of my students. Kahoot! is still a hit with students as they feel like it is a competition and a game. However, this is not an assessment I value as it relies on the speed of the student entering their answers, it is multiple choice or true and false questions, and many students guess to ensure their speed is the quickest.

Speed matters for Kahoot! This is a ‘fun’ way to review with students before the end of a unit. Students that enjoy this way of reviewing or assessment already have a solid grasp of the content. Students that are struggling or need a moment to process the questions, do not like this game. It creates high stress levels and anxiety. They rarely see their names on the leaderboard and does not reinforce their learning.

I have tried many different ways to assess students during my career. When looking for quicker feedback, I like to use Google forms. There is an opportunity for multiple choice and true and false questions. However, I can ask students to make false questions true in a follow up statement. In the same assessment, I can also create short answer and long answer questions. I find these questions much more valuable as they give more insight into the students’ learning of the concept I am assessing. One of the most valuable questions I have been asking students during assessment recently is “Is there anything else you would like to tell me about __________ that I did not ask?”

I have found that letting students show their work, write their answers down and explain their thoughts has been the best way to truly assess their knowledge. As students get to understand my assessment process, they also understand that I really do want them to succeed! 

All Assessment is Valuable

“Assessment is not a spreadsheet, it’s a conversation”, stated by the late teacher, Joe Bower. I think he is saying summative assessment with a number or letter attached to is not good assessment or depiction of what a student has learned. Instead, he imagines assessment as a lifelong process and it is never finished, hence it isn’t about what is learned but what learning has occurred and how to move forward. I mostly agree however what he is saying is easier said then done, and I think the “spread sheet” isn’t all bad.

I always tell my students there are 3 reasons for what you learn in high school: one, to help you learn ideas about the world, formulate your own ideas, and explore new ideas; two, to inspire interest in certain subjects or ideas; and three, to teach you different skills in the process of learning different things; how to manage time, how to collaborate, problem solve, critically think and so forth. This is just my personal philosophy I have used to make sense or our education system and to explain to students why they are learning what they learn.

Because this is my idea I believe our curriculum does have valuable outcomes and we should assess them, hence we do need summative assessment. Depending on the goal or outcome giving a range of what the student may know at that point and time helps them know how well they learned the topic. For very content-based outcomes this works! Here is an example: “Distinguish between physical and chemical properties of common substances, including those found in household, commercial, industrial, and agricultural applications.” If a student got an 80 % on the assessment for this outcome it tells me and them they get the concepts 80 % of the time. In the world of assessment tools. A multiple choice assessment tool like zipgrade might work just fine for this outcome to determine a students ability to distinguish this. It is an efficient way for teachers sto save some time! Kahoot, blooket and quiz multiple choice programs on socrative are all great to practice these concepts because of hte wide variety of premade quizzes. Time saver for teachers and fun for students. Everybody is hatin’ on this a little, however science knowledge can be objective hence this is a great way for the teacher to assess a students abilities to distinguish this information. Even if we wanted to remove grades for specific concepts it would be difficult.

I do live in the high school world where students need certain classes and certain grades to get into the program of their choice. So removing grades is impossible at this point in education. University, and secondary programs still need numbers on a spreadsheet called a high school transcript to determine if someone is eligible for a certain program. On the other hand I wish there was more options for students, those that know they were not heading to post secondary it would be great to have pass fail courses based on a variety of outcomes that hit these different categories that I believe are most important. Number two is really important hence why choice for students is key.

We need to inspire and motivate our students and studies show grades don’t do that. Relevance does. The problem is some of these outcomes are not interesting to students and have no motivation to learn anything about them. So, if we were to completely change to only formative and remove grades there would need to be more choice for students. This would help build intrinsic motivation. This would help students to be excited about what they are learning and maybe students would be even more inspired! If we remove grades and continue with the curriculum we have it will not work.

In this article, Pendergast et al. goes onto say that objective ideas aren’t as valuable as skills. I agree that, sometimes the content is not as valuable moving forward in life as the process of getting there. However, it is still a duty as teachers to asses the outcome. But is it a duty to summatively assess the outcome? I think so? Correct me if I am wrong. So, should we be assessing their effort, or the skill of just distinguishing and not worry about the content at all? According to this article yes.

I think the third one is what has gotten lost sometimes.   Learning should be exploration, engagement, discovery, analyzation and creation. Hence we should assess these processes. This is where some amazing assessment tools can come in because be honest, formative assessment with personal feedback is the ultimate goal. However, the amount of time given to teachers to assess this way is -1,000,000 hours. That is what it feels like anyway. Although, there is some great tools to help with this. I was very impressed by the Brisk Teaching Chrome Extension. It could give extremely accurate and thorough feedback based on your rubric instantly. It gave positive feedback as well as next steps on how to improve and continue growing and that is exactly what students need.

 All types of assessment is valuable from tests, assignments or questions on content, to rubrics evaluating ones process and opinions, exploration and creation. Some should be assessed by how much effort was put in by the teacher, self assessed, or peer assessed. The means of how we asses should also have variety as well like conversations, projects, observations, questions, team work and so forth. The key is look at the outcome but also look at the big picture and this will guide you in assessment.

Assessments landscape – “Where the mind is without fear and the Head is held High”

This quote by Rabindranath Tagore comes to mind today while writing this blog on Assessments. One of my most dreaded experiences as a high school student was facing my final exams, particularly the dreaded Math assessment. The weeks leading up to the exams felt like a marathon of cramming every formula and concept, trying to stuff my brain with as much information as possible. And then, sitting through those grueling three-hour tests, feeling bogged, dizzy as I struggled to recall everything I had memorized. The anxiety was palpable, knowing that the results would determine so much of my academic future. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget, and even now, it sends chills down my spine just thinking about it……Lol. As a facilitator, I think the traditional summative assessments, like final exams, put students in a high-stakes environment where the performance is judged solely based on memorization and rote learning. For students like me, this approach can be stressful and demotivating. The fear of failure looms large, leading to anxiety and even physical symptoms like sleeplessness, nausea.

However, the 21st century transported us into the technologically advanced world of education. The emphasis on formative assessment, gamification in the Edtech world brought about empowering changes in the pedagogy of learning and evaluation. Unlike traditional assessments, which can feel like daunting obstacles, gamified learning environments are designed to be engaging, interactive, and enjoyable.

Assessment Technologies in Education: In the modern classroom, assessment technologies have become indispensable companions for educators seeking to enhance their teaching practices. The Learning Management systems have not only helped in connecting the teacher and learner but also lowered the administrative burden. The pandemic brought about more popularity for the applications like Google classroom, Zoom, MS teams, Kahoot, Mentimeters, Jamboarding etc. The learning theory of connectivism popularized these Edtech tools by emphasizing the significance of digital networks, collaboration, personalization, data-driven decision making, thereby integration the informal learning experiences with the learning process. These tools provide learners with opportunities to connect, collaborate, and engage with content in meaningful ways within digital learning environments. A few days back, my classmates in Edtech course, gave a group presentation on some wonderful assessment application like: Socrative, ZipGrade, and Mathletics. The tools were really impressive in what they could do with great effectiveness and efficiency!! The Zipgrade tool for assessment was impressive in how it eliminated extra work for teachers and gave instant feedback. And One of the most important aspects about feedback in classroom is that it should be timely, reinforcing and redirectional.  This helps teacher focus more on instructional activities. I remember how our teachers would carry bundles of papers back home or from one class to another and check them whenever they had free time. On the other hand, Socrative offers interactive quizzes, fostering active engagement, facilitating personalized learning experiences alongwith real-time feedback. Similarly, Mathletics helps students to hone their mathematical skills through gamified learning modules and adaptive assessments, catering to diverse learning styles and abilities. These tools gamify the evaluation and therefore remove the fear associated with the process of evaluation. Positive reinforcement, such as badges or rewards for completing tasks, can motivate students to engage with the material and persist in their learning.

The Shift Towards Formative Assessment:

Assessments play a large part in the learning of students and our understanding as teachers. . If evaluation finds teaching learning process satisfactory, it motivates the teachers and students to work harder for better results. And while summative assessments are important, the true understanding of learning comes from the formative kind

The assessment tools also contribute to making evaluation more formative than summative. They take away the administrative burden unlike the traditional methods of evaluation, are quick in implementation, cater to Visual, auditory and kinesthetic students equally and so it becomes easier for the facilitator/teacher to plan formative assessment. I personally feel that formative assessment lowers the fear factor amongst students and learning happens in the absence of fear. Unlike the usual end-of-term exams where students compete for higher marks; the formative assessment is about continuous feedback in bits and pieces. If evaluation finds teaching learning process satisfactory, it motivates the teachers and students to work harder for better results. This move towards formative assessment promotes growth and empowerment in learners, rather than just focusing on grades and labeling students. It’s more about the journey of learning rather than the destination of a final grade.

The technology has not only empowered the teachers but also the students. Every individual in some way is the owner of one’s education, development and growth. The organization/schools no more completely control the education process (Rigby, 2015)


Rigby, C. S. (2015). Gamification and motivation.