Wednesday, November 23, 2016

3 Tools to Automate Assessment For Learning

It was only a week ago, but I'm dying to know if I passed the exam for an endorsement on my teacher license. I know that if I don't, I will receive feedback on areas that need improvement, I'll practice more, and take the exam again. But it doesn't make the wait any easier.


Our students go through these feelings, too, and I often wonder if I'm better at processing them because I didn't have to grow up in an education system that promoted high-stakes testing. I'll never know, for sure, so I use this concern to inform the way I design assessments.

With all the great new ways we can manage information, one of my favorite concepts is automation. I automate emails, text messages with Remind, posts to Twitter, Google Classroom posts, and much more. Why not automate assessment grading?

Timely feedback is the keystone to formative assessment. Students need to know, in the moment, whether or not what they are thinking and doing will work in the long run. I can't take away all of the stress of testing, but perhaps the little formative tasks along the way don't have to contribute.

Here are a few of the ways I've been using automation to address the issue of timely feedback.

1. DocentEDU

A docent is a guide or a person with the right to teach. DocentEDU made a wonderfully simple tool to do just that. I use Docent for guided reading. It's quick to set up, and there are a variety of question types.

The image below shows a multiple-choice question. What's nice about the multiple choice question is the automation. Each question is scored automatically, reducing the points on each try.

I like the reduction in points because it adds a gaming element. Plus, I don't put these grades in the gradebook to calculate summary grades for report cards because they're formative. I want my students to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses, not stress about them. This is assessment for learning.

The second image shows the scoring by question for each student. Teachers can see the class average and download a CSV file for data collection. A low class average tells me either that the students didn't do well or a handful didn't do it at all. Either way, the conversations are based on data collected automatically.



2. Google Forms

Before the quiz mode on Google Forms was available, I used Flubaroo. The new quiz mode will autograde assessments. More importantly, automated feedback can be left for correct and incorrect responses, a feature that allows me to use this tool in the assessment for learning context. 

When we allow learners to take risks and receive timely actionable feedback, they don't need to wonder how they did. They can spend time thinking about how they got there and how to succeed next time. Like the story I shared about myself, it's hard not knowing. It can take something away from us, and I'm not willing to do that to the kids in my high school history classes when we have the tools to do otherwise.
  



3. EDpuzzle

This is another one of my new favorite tools. It autogrades, provides several question types, and adds opportunities to think critically while watching short videos.

Like the Google Form quiz mode, the responses can include feedback for answer choices. What's more, EDpuzzle allows teacher users to provide specific feedback for each answer choice. Google Forms only provides for feedback to correspond to correct and incorrect answer choices.

One of the additional points of data that EDpuzzle collects is the watch behaviors. For example, if I notice that a student got a question wrong, I can compare that to the watch behavior, which shows how much video was rewound in particular spots. When this information is compared to the response results, we can talk to students about how they are processing the information in the video to respond to the question. In other words, I can see whether or not a student is struggling or just going through the motions.

Just because kids watch YouTube, doesn't mean they are skilled at comprehending the content. EDpuzzle is a game changer for educators who recognize this 21st century learning issue.



Why Automation?

We do a lot of formative assessment in my classes. It's the only way you'll every know if what your students are doing will help them achieve the learning objectives. By automating some of these assessments, it frees me to focus on providing feedback on writing, which is where learners are more likely to be engaged. 

I also believe that automation needs to be leveraged the more we use digital tools for learning and assessment. We don't have the tactile memory of carrying the papers back and forth to school or the visual of stacks of folders on the desk (many still do, of course). 

Google Keep has been one of the ways I remind myself to check writing assignments and to take a peak into the virtual classroom that's always ready and working, like the world that's being reinvented as we speak.

Here are some related posts on the tools mentioned above.