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Today’s One Thing for Teachers: Assessing for Learning

Bianca Davila

Bianca Dávila

The Learning Accelerator

Assessment is an integral part of the teaching and learning experience. The data educators gather from various types of assessments help to inform future instruction by helping teachers understand what students already have mastered, what supports they might need to get there, and when they’re ready for new content.

When in the physical classroom, teachers can rely on a multitude of data points to inform instruction daily, including:

  • Exit tickets
  • Student and parent-teacher conferences
  • Homework
  • Real-time progress monitoring
  • Ongoing conversations with students

These, along with more formal summative data, all serve to inform teachers’ instructional and relational decision-making.

In a virtual setting, many of these common data points can feel lost or out of reach, which leads us to our big question this week: How do I assess learning to inform and improve instruction remotely?

Although school has moved to a virtual setting, leveraging data still matters. We do, however, need to develop clear strategies for how we’re going to collect it. Here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. What past data do I have access to?: Consider what you already knew about your students prior to the shift to remote learning. How can you leverage existing formative, summative, and personal data?
  2. What will I collect as progress and formative data – and how?: Consider how you can use your learning management system (LMS) or supplementary tools (i.e., online practice or intervention programs) to assess students, integrate trackers that collect progress-monitoring data, and provide real-time checks for understanding when giving live lessons.
  3. What kinds of non-academic data will I collect – and how?: To help you see the whole child, give thought to how you will replace personal touchpoints that you normally have with students and families to help you understand their physical, social, and emotional needs. Make sure you check with your district’s privacy policy when it comes to collecting personal student data.

The strategies below are focused on understanding students both academically and emotionally. These examples should not be seen as ways to assign grades, but rather as concrete ways to get the information you need to design instruction that meets your students’ most pressing needs. Data-informed instruction integrates known data (past, present, and student-focused) with opportunities for students to grow, flourish, and engage meaningfully in their work.

1. What past data do I have access to?

Begin with what you already have. You likely have a large and varied set of data for each of your students. How can you leverage this to inform current instruction? While this data may not be your most current set, don’t discount its power. Look at past data to see what students have mastered, what needs to be reinforced, and what still needs to be introduced. Sprinkle in past content based on what you’ve identified as areas of growth or where you think students need extra support. Think about how you can use the following types of data that you already have:

  • If you’re using an online learning program, such as Khan Academy or DreamBox, pull data directly from the site. These platforms often offer a wide variety of data you can interact with, such as progress through the curriculum, time spent on certain tasks, and even when students independently sought help.
  • Use your school’s data dashboard (e.g., Illuminate, i-Ready, DreamBox), to find already existing data.
    1. These platforms break down data for you in multiple ways, including class comparisons, response frequency reports, and instructional standards.
    2. Use recent summative and interim assessment data to identify what skills still need to be taught (or retaught) to all or a subset of your students. These data could come from unit tests or interim benchmark assessments, and although you’ve likely already analyzed these data, they can still be valuable in helping you to determine what content should be brought back in. For example, record a reteach lesson on the lowest scoring standard or assign a problem set using this standard to identify if students have progressed at all in their mastery. If your district uses MAP Growth testing, use the student profile report to determine focus areas for instruction.

2. What will I collect as progress and formative data – and how?

  • If you are introducing new content, consider what kind of data you will collect to inform instruction. Err on the side of collecting progress and formative data. With irregular schedules, inequitable or inconsistent access to technology for all students, and the anxiety and stress that students (and families!) may be experiencing as a result of the pandemic, not all students will have the ability to access all of the content needed in order to be on a level playing field when taking a longer summative assessment. Progress monitoring and formative assessments will tell you how your students are learning now rather than a summative assessment, which will tell you what content your students have mastered at the end of a unit.
    1. Give virtual checks for understanding to gain “in-the-moment” data to help adjust instruction when teaching a live lesson.
      1. Use the polling feature on Zoom to ask multiple-choice questions and get real-time data, or use Poll Everywhere if you’re using other platforms to host your lessons.
      2. Ask open-ended questions on Zoom or Google Hangouts Meet and have students chat in their responses.
    2. Use a web platform like EdPuzzle, Nearpod, GoFormative to build quizzes and exit tickets into your lessons either using pre-made content from the site or your own content. These systems collect the data for you and compile it in one easy-to-see place.
    3. Monitor progress to track how much work students are completing and how they’re progressing with their activities. Create a data dashboard for students to view how many lessons they’ve completed.
    4. For mastery-based formative assessments, use Google Forms, Pear Deck (which is compatible with both Google and Microsoft-based classrooms), or Socrative to create quizzes or exit tickets.
    5. Use rubrics to provide students (and families helping at home) clarity around expectations for your assignments and help students self-assess as they work. To guide students through a project or assignment, create a rubric in Google Classroom or upload an existing rubric to your LMS.
      1. Create your own rubric using a variety of templates.
      2. Consider using a single-point rubric to identify areas of growth as well as areas of strength based on the given criteria for proficiency.
      3. Use an analytic rubric to highlight what students need to do in order to achieve proficiency.
    6. Create portfolios of learning via Google Classroom or SeeSaw.
    7. Create assessments using your data dashboard’s item banks that have standards-aligned questions, such as Illuminate’s item bank.

3. What kinds of non-academic data will I collect – and how?

Consider how you can collect holistic data around student and family needs, such as housing, safety, and social-emotional considerations. It’s important to see the whole student because we’re missing those informal data points that we would typically get in an in-person setting. Take care of students’ emotional and social wellbeing first and foremost, and use these suggestions to help you collect that invaluable personal data.

We hope you’ve found these resources helpful! Check in with us next week to learn more about how to leverage your data to differentiate for your students. You can also follow #TLAOneThing on Twitter to track all of our tips in the coming weeks.

Looking for more help? TLA has partnered with GetSetUp.io to help teachers access free group-based online training on screencasting and video tools.

We would love to hear your feedback on this series – or your requests for additional help! If you haven’t yet, we would love for you to fill out this survey so we can better understand how to support you. Also, feel free to reach out to us at bianca.davila@learningaccelerator.org to share your thoughts and questions.

      Bianca Davila

      Bianca Dávila

      The Learning Accelerator

      Bianca Dávila is Chief of Staff at The Learning Accelerator. She blends her expertise and passion for educational leadership, team culture, process innovation, and organizational management to support the TLA team.