The 2010 National Education Technology Plan draft provides some great examples of formative uses of technology-based assessment tools.
I've been reading the 2010 National Education Technology Plan draft and I really appreciate the wealth of ideas and examples in it. I do wonder how much of what is proposed in this document will come to pass as it moves forward, but in the meanwhile we can share and leverage many of the ideas in it right now. I hope some of these examples encourage readers to discuss these ideas with their peers and consider similar approaches that they might want to try.
One of the focal areas of the NETP is Assessment. The plan advocates using technology to assess in ways that improve learning. Measuring skills like problem-solving and critical thinking requires the design and development of assessments that address a wide range of expertise and competencies.
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The document provides and discusses examples of these types of assessments being used in schools today. I love these real world examples – they are a great way of really advancing the discussion. Following are summaries of some of the examples cited in the plan (note: all quotes come directly from the 2010 NETP document's section on Assessment).
Former high school physics teacher Jim Minstrell developed this web based assessment tool. “Minstrell compiled ideas about force and motion based on both research literature and the observations of educators.” Some of these ideas are fundamentally correct, some are partially incorrect, and others are seriously flawed. Using these questions as a foundation, sets of questions were developed that can be used to inform learning, rather than simply test what students have learned. This program is available on line for free and is supported by the National Science Foundation.
Another NSF funded effort, this one based at Harvard, River City was designed for middle school students “to acquire concepts in biology, ecology, and epidemiology while planning and implementing scientific investigations in a virtual world.” Students work in teams, collecting data, and running tests to try and determine why River City residents are getting sick. Student performance is assessed by reviewing reports that are the culmination of their experience, by examining the types of information students and student teams examine, and by other actions they take as they migrate the virtual environment.
The River City project illustrates some of the ways in which technology can change the way in which academic subjects can be taught and tested. Learn more about it here.
The Worcester County Public Schools in Massachusetts have developed a web based system that combines tutoring and assessment activities (“ASSISTment” being a blend of “assistance” and “assessment”). The system is designed to provide educators with an assessment of students' developing skills while teaching middle school math concepts. When students respond to problems, they are given hints and tutoring assistance, and the level of support they need is captured in program. From week to week the system “learns” and adopts to provide appropriate levels and types of help.
Over time, the system also learns to predict student results on the year end standardized tests. In fact, “the ASSISTment system has been found to be more accurate at predicting students' performance on the state examination than the pen-and-paper benchmark tests developed for that purpose”. Learn more about the ASSISTments project on the ASSISTments Wiki.
Classroom Response Systems
The following example is provided, in which these types of systems are used in a way that combines assessment and learning. Physics professor Eric Mazur poses multiple choice problems to which students respond using these system. Students then discuss their responses with a peer who gave a different answer. “Mazur reports much higher levels of engagement and better student learning from this combination of a classroom response system and peer instruction.”
To learn more about CRS systems, check out this post.
West Virginia's techSteps program is an assessment system that has been coordinated across the educational system, incorporating six technology integration activities levels for each grade level. Each activity includes an assessment rubric, and teachers record student assessments against the rubric into the techSteps web site. Using this information, a Technology Literacy Assessment Profile is built for the student, and updated as each new activity is performed and recorded. This system enables West Virginia to have statewide student data on technology proficiencies at each grade level. Learn more here.
There are several other examples of these types of assessments offered in the 2010 NETP draft. Click here to access the NETP 2010 document and read further. Hopefully these ideas spur further creative thinking and the development and adoption of formative assessments like those above.
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