Chris Jakicic, EdD, an author and a consultant, was principal of Woodlawn Middle School in Illinois from 1999 to 2007. She began her career teaching middle school science.

How Does Assessment Change in a Remote or Hybrid Environment?

Just like many of you, I had to develop a whole new set of skills in the last few months, as learning went online for the adults I work with in the same way most of you moved to remote teaching with your students.

Truthfully, I’ve gotten caught up in exploring many of the online tools teachers are using to share learning experiences with their students. I wonder to myself, which platform is better—Flipgrid or Jamboard? (True confession, I just learned about Jamboard this weekend and I’m obsessed!)

As you made instructional decisions during this time, you were probably asking yourself:

  • Will this happen asynchronously or synchronously?
  • How will I know whether students learned it?
  • Can I/Should I grade it?
  • Do they have an adult at home to help monitor their work?
  • And even, do all my students have access to the instruction I’m providing them?

While some districts dictated the answers to some of these questions, not all did, and since this was something none of us had experienced before, we had little guidance to rely on. Many of us felt overwhelmed and were just trying to get through each day.

With the summer “break,” you’ve probably had some time to reflect and refine your practices as you anticipate the upcoming school year, knowing that you may face remote teaching during some or all of the upcoming months. You’re likely thinking about how starting this school year will be different than any other.

Between the “COVID slide” and the fact that last years’ teachers were unable to complete all of the lessons they would have in a typical year, we must face the fact that teachers will need to spend some time early this school year teaching the important prerequisite skills students missed during the spring. With that said, how do you know where to begin? The following are some of the ideas you might consider about assessment practices as you work with your team during this first quarter:

Be careful that students don’t begin their school year with a lot of tests

While pre-assessments may be more valuable now than ever, students want and need to build relationships early. Be upfront with students about what you’ll be using pre-assessments for.

Don’t start where you’ve always started

Carefully plan with your collaborative team and last year’s team members what essential content wasn’t taught or wasn’t assessed in order to determine what you will need to teach early in this school year. These conversations will help you focus clearly on what you’ll want to assess and what prerequisite skills will need to be taught.

Student work is often the best evidence of what they have learned, and is often the best formative assessment there is

Identify a few essential learning targets students must know and then decide what you’ll need to do to gather evidence around whether students have learned them or not.

Evidence can come from teacher observations, as well as paper/pencil assignments

Work with your team to make sure you’re all collecting evidence in the same way so that you can make “next step” decisions collaboratively.

Online applications often “grade” assessments for you when you use multiple choice questions—but, these questions rarely get at what students actually know

If the answer to a question is something a student can look up online, you won’t get back good information about their learning. If students aren’t in your classroom for assessments, ask for short videos or short answers allowing students to tell you more about what they’ve learned than just the right answer.

Keep your focus on the rigor of your standards

If the standards asked students to “analyze” something, don’t just make them “explain” it!

For (common) formative assessments provide feedback to students rather than a grade

Let them know what they need to do to reach mastery or beyond.

Work with your team to develop a system to collect evidence that you can use throughout the year to make instructional decisions

Create a list of essential learning targets for each unit of instruction. Keep running lists of students receiving additional time and support in Tiers 2 and 3, and which targets are being focused on. This will help you be prepared to pivot to remote teaching, if necessary.

You might be asking yourself, “how this is any different than what you did in previous years?” And the answer is likely “it’s pretty much the same” for those of you who work with high-performing teams. Having a team to collaborate with is at least as important as it’s ever been.

Using formative evidence to know where to start with student learning is an essential practice, as is using that same evidence to plan the response when students aren’t yet proficient. Using essential standards to guide our decisions about what to teach must happen now more than ever. When assessing remotely, choose online tools that will allow you to gather the evidence you need to make “next-step” decisions.

While the actual content of our assessments might include prerequisite skills that we haven’t had to assess in the past, how we use the information we gather remains the same. Keep true to the practices you know will work. And remember what we tell our students all the time: “You’ve got this!”

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