If there was ever an area opened up for evaluation in education during the last year, it is definitely in the category of online assessments. Teachers not only had to deal with all of the changes required of them during the pandemic, and pivot whenever necessary, but they also had to consider curriculum changes, realign time periods for learning, and create time extensions for or even eliminate units.

As well, new concepts of plagiarism and easily googling answers to complete assignments arrived as a new challenge on top of the already existing ones. Though, these two challenges can be viewed as beneficial in that they are opportunities to re-evaluate the types and values of assessments being given in classrooms across the country. How does a teacher create a solid online assessment? How does one counteract the student’s ability to find anything and everything on the world-wide web? What does a valuable online design look like?

Professional Development and Assessments

One of the biggest concerns among educators is the need for professional development regarding assessment. Because there are multiple levels of assessing students, it can often be difficult to find a “good” assessment. It really should be focused on the student actually should learn and why. In doing so, instructors can fine-tune their assessments to meet this level of assessment. It no longer needs to be about the number of questions answered but the meaningfulness, or quality, behind the questions themselves.

It becomes especially problematic to create an online version with which students are challenged. The professional development should be focused on an equitable, fair, and quality-based conceptualization. Professionally developing faculty will affect several areas, including improved assignment designs, which in turn will lead to stronger assessments and assessment techniques. This also incorporates the connection to more quality grading of assignments and assessments. Strengthening learning gaps and assessments will lead to better learning for students, which is the ultimate goal.

Assessment Design

With the knowledge that traditional test design (this includes small quizzes up to full examinations) incorporates a lower depth of knowledge, such as recall and rote memory, the task is to create a product that isn’t simply having students complete the typical jump-through-a-hoop assignment so a grade can be added to the grade book. The assessment needs to combine technology with pedagogy to create a new knowledge of learning from the content on which students have been focused. Because the simple recall questions can be looked up, assessments must allow students to let go of constraints of regurgitating content. Media-based projects, of which there are countless choices, are invaluable in building students’ knowledge and technological abilities. When it comes to social media, creativity among students is sometimes immeasurable—as educators, we are scared of that idea because we have been relentlessly pushed toward rubrics and defined categories but if the assessment is designed with skillsets and standards in mind, it can be highly significant for each student.

Create assessments with more authentic opportunities for students to prove their comprehension. This is the tough part because it also is an exhausting aspect of the profession. These take shape as open-ended questions, which allows for processing and formulation of answers, which is followed by professional feedback from the teacher.  Students want and need feedback beyond the right or wrong marks. This feedback is a necessity in the learning process for high-end learning to take place. These assignments need to be cognitively challenging from the beginning in order to be assessed and returned for a cognitively reflective experience.

Online Assessment Strategies

Certainly one of the best ways to measure learning is through the engagement process. Students who are actively engaged in lessons are often more successful on their assessments. Online discussions that require thoughtful answers, replies to other students, and general debate tactics can be a highly successful opportunity to analyze comprehension without the hours that require providing feedback. Enhance these discussions by challenging students to apply argumentative/debate tactics. One of the highest levels of understanding content is through the debate process, which incorporates research and argument designs.

Implementing peer revision opportunities is another terrific technique to construct solid online assessment. Students who assess their peers will enhance their own abilities to reflect, fortify their understanding of content, and develop healthy ways to provide constructive feedback (as well as receive that same feedback from their peers).

Educators must begin to let go of some of the traditional mindsets when it comes to assessments. Allowing students to be part of the assessment design process is integral, in that it becomes a partnership for learning. Collaboration is a significant feature of the world beyond school and having them help design rubrics, having them select aspects they would prefer to learn, similar to a buffet where they picks the “foods,” and tying their knowledge into their own real-life experiences is key to effective and successful learning and assessment.

Finally, teachers can begin to reshape the world of online assessment by transitioning away from traditional strategies. If schools allow for a truly open-minded pedagogy, eliminating grades can be a way for children to not focus on the letter but instead engage themselves in the learning. Also, using more or all formative assessment throughout a unit is more effective than simply assigning a final summative piece. Educators can evaluate throughout the whole unit rather than waiting for the end to determine whether students learned. As well, when teachers give students the chance to create their assessment plan, it provides occasions for major amounts of analysis and synthesis.

While remote learning is intimidating at times, multiple strategies exist for online assessment. Understanding the importance of why content is being assessed is a key point. Then it boils down to being open-minded, creative, and willing to try new approaches.