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Using next generation assessments to personalize learning, drive instruction

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SmartBlog on Education is shining a light on education technology innovations during May, exploring the latest products and tools and the hottest trends in ed-tech. In this blog post, we learn how next generation student assessments are different from past trends or fads.

As a social studies educator for the past 27 years, I’ve seen my share of educational fads and trends. Many of the strategies or tools employed in my classroom 10 years ago are not what I use today. One thing that has remained constant in my teaching practice is my need to make the best instructional decisions, based on data, for my students and to make the learning engaging and personalized for them.

That is why at this tenure in my teaching career, I am excited to see how next generation student assessment systems are becoming standard practice in the classroom. These assessment platforms or tools allow me to incorporate the formative assessment process throughout my classroom assessment practice. Next generation assessment systems allow me to efficiently create and conduct my assessments, engage my students, inform my instructional decisions and help my students adjust their learning.

Next generation student assessment

So what do I mean by “next generation student assessment”? What are these assessment platforms? How are they different from the trends or fads from the past?

When I talk about next generation student assessment, I talk about more than the digitization of paper-based assessments to computer-based form. I talk about assessment systems that are intuitive, adaptive and flexible, which incorporate formative assessment methods throughout. It is the formative assessment process that enriches both the teaching and learning process. This is what makes these systems different from systems from the past.

At Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public Schools (ISD 196) in Minnesota, today we are providing a next generation assessment solution that allows our teachers to generate and share assessments with their colleagues, share results and constructive feedback with their students, gain in-depth actionable, individualized, and immediate data for each student, and provides students with tools to be active and engaged participants in the assessment process.

Personalization of student learning

Having engaged and motivated students in the assessment process is a key part to personalizing student learning. Since our implementation, we have seen students take ownership of their learning during the assessment process through activities such as predicting their scores, setting goals and expectations, providing confidence ratings, self-assessing, and reflecting on their performance. These activities facilitate student-teacher conversations during the assessment process, thus transforming an assessment activity to a learning activity. More importantly, the self-assessment and self-reflection processes of reconciling their performance with their prediction helps students gain a deeper understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, encouraging more ownership of their own work.

Data-driven instruction

When students participate in these learner-centric assessment activities and take ownership of their learning, they provide our teachers with actionable information that drives their instruction. Next generation student assessment systems facilitate this data-driven instruction process, making it easier for our teachers to identify where students’ learning gaps are and where they have been. Having these data by standards, benchmarks, or learning targets at my fingertips have allowed me to reflect on my teaching practices and better meet my students’ needs. At the district level, teachers across all of our schools are now having the same transformational experience.

Not only do individual teachers have this trove of information about each student at their fingertips, teachers can share this information with their colleagues in their professional learning communities or data teams. The ability to work with colleagues to design and create common formative assessments and to share the results with their colleagues is what “drives” the data-driven instruction process. Results from the common assessments now make our PLC discussions more lively, more rich, and most importantly, more actionable.

At ISD 196, we made the leap in 2010 and have reaped the rewards since. Our next generation classroom assessment platform has allowed our students to personalize their assessment experience and take ownership of their learning. It has also provided our teachers with standards-based and actionable data to inform their instruction. And that is why next generation student assessment is here to stay in our district and not a passing fad.

Todd Beach is the district curriculum lead at Independent School District 196 in Rosemount, Minn. He taught social studies at middle school and high school throughout ISD 196 for 27 years. In 2010, the Minnesota Council for the Social Studies named him the Minnesota Social Studies Teacher of the Year. Beach is also a consultant for the College Board. District 196 has chosen the next generation assessment platform from Naiku.

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