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  • Writer's pictureJessica Kaminski

Virtual Learning and Assessments

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

Assessments often get a bad rap. Originally, they were designed to help educators find out information about their learners.

  • Do their students understand the concept?

  • What skills are the students still missing?

  • Where should the lesson go next?

Due to high-stakes and accountability, assessment has become an entirely different concept. It's become something that last hours, or even days, and consists of way too many topics. However, I think the current state we are in while virtual learning allows us to go back to using assessment as a tool to help us make educational decisions.

What if instead of giving students a lengthy exam, we focused on the power standards or concepts for each grade level? What if we looked at how the concepts build upon one another and ask students questions that increase in difficulty? What if this was done in a low-stress way that allowed students to truly share their thoughts on the mathematical content?

If you are nodding your head "YES!" then you may want to consider an assessment interview as a viable option!

Whether you are considering how to end the year or thinking about assessing students next year virtually, an assessment interview is a great way to extend the thinking of students and find out what they know. Researchers such as Jennifer Bay-Williams and Jo Boaler have stated time and again, that interviews allow educators to ask follow-up questions and find out more than a paper assessment. The challenge is TIME and resources, but I think the digital era we are currently facing is giving us a valuable opportunity to rethink our assessment strategy.

This is not a new concept, but one I became more passionate about while working with a district who was thinking about how to assess what their students know in a way that isn't tedious and time consuming. We decided to ask students some questions and get students to share their ideas. Here's the basic breakdown:

  • Show the student a slide.

  • Ask a question and ask students to share their answer.

  • The evaluator jots down notes.

  • If the student answers the question correctly, the evaluator asks the next step question as the questions increase in complexity.

  • The evaluator continues until the highest level is achieved.

The entire assessment should take less than 10 minutes, and the evaluator stops when the student hits frustration. This is much like a reading assessment where the assessment is halted when the student shows frustration. In math, we continue to assess, because there are so many content areas. But what if we saw the way the skills developed and assessed from the bottom to the top? Then, we could truly see where the misconceptions are and address them before hitting frustration!

This is a great way to get students sharing their thinking and it allows flexibility. Students could be assessed one-on-one or even in small groups. Students could share their thinking using manipulatives or by drawing pictures. The options are endless and provide so much more information that one answer on a piece of paper.

While this season can be quite stressful, I hope this can be a silver lining in thinking about assessing students. I have a free sample of Grades K-5 Google slides that are ready to use. Click on the link below to access.

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