Education Technology

Assessment: Reloaded! Education Technology's increasing use in student evaluations

Anjana Deepak
Assessment: Reloaded! Education Technology's increasing use in student evaluations

We go to an educational institute to learn. But how do we know learning happens when it is inside the brain? We can’t actually see how much learning has happened till we check for how much is learnt. This checking or ‘assessment’ is what tells us how much the student has taken from the teaching.

Assessments help form a baseline to work from and allow a teacher to make adjustments along the way to help students learn. At present, the Indian education system focuses mainly on the memorisation skills of students. This has precedence over other skills such as problem solving and creative thinking. Therefore the real potential of the child is not assessed. The main purpose of assessments must be to motivate students and not discourage them, as these evaluations affect students’ lives.

Rakesh Sharma, COO & Co Founder, Myperfectice talks about assessments as a continuous process and the actionable next steps. “This includes absolute and relative matrix of an individual on skills and goals. It covers different level metrics from areas of strength, weakness, speed analysis, and behavioural analysis for the students. We provide segmentation of students on multiple attributes which helps on focused corrective action to drive personalisation. To summarize, the metrics are for both students, teachers (institutes) and parents so that they can take corrective action.”

He points out, “The whole purpose of assessment is to be able to identify the opportunities of improvement and take corrective action. This is effective if and only if the assessment and corrective actions are done on time. This is what we do @MyPerfectice where the information is available real time, from anywhere at the finger tips.”

Need for tech in assessment

A holistic review of primary assessment is needed to ensure we have a system that is fit for the purpose; one which works for pupils, parents, teachers, and school management teams alike. While most schools implement assessments using traditional methods, it has been observed worldwide that technology-enabled assessments can help reduce the time, resources, and disruption to learning required for the administration of paper assessments. Assessments delivered using technology also provide a more complete and nuanced picture of student needs, interests, and abilities than traditional assessments, allowing educators to personalise learning.

Education is changing and is being moulded according to the ever changing mind-set of the present generation. Despite the current times that are driven by technology, traditional forms of assessments are still prevalent in the education system. However, technology is slowly but surely making its place in the assessment domain.

Niyati Chitkara, Principal, Chitkara International School says, “With the changing dynamics of the education sector, there is a change in the way of imparting knowledge. Now children do not long for a teacher who is always disposed to teach them when in doubt because now, technology is on the golden throne, ruling the Generation Z (children born after 2003) and Alpha (children born after 2010), and paving paths for them to achieve and study what the foregone generation couldn’t do.”

Traditional Assessments

Regular schools have conventional methods of testing students that are teacher-chalk driven and paper-pen driven. Traditional assessments have teacher centric classrooms, where guidelines are set in place to be followed and emphasis is more on examination and results rather than understanding of concepts. Students are then tested and compared with a standard benchmark. The assessments that are presently being followed in schools are formative assessments, summative assessments, weekly tests, unit tests and final exams.

Mr. Manohar Lal, Principal, Delhi Public School, Mathura Road, Delhi states that at his school “Assessments are conducted on a weekly basis,” as he shares a list of the current assessments provided…

Monday Test/ Cycle Test conducted regularly for classes VI-VIII and XI-XII

Regular Terminal Exams

Regular weekly assignments for classes VI-XII

Fortnightly notebook submission and evaluation for which marks are awarded

Assignment booklets are prepared in each subject for classes VI-XII for revision

Subject enrichment projects are made and activities (listening and speaking skills) are conducted

Other testing methods that are alternatives to the traditional assessment system are performance- based and alternative/ authentic assessments.

Performance-based assessments require students to take part in specific tasks that are set for them. Usually real world scenarios are applied as benchmarks for students.

Alternative assessments focus on the students’ strengths. This allows the teacher to mould the syllabus according to the student’s learning style. This especially helps students with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, and other disabilities that could affect language performance.

Although paper and pencil tests can be effective when assessing listening and reading comprehension skills, they are not appropriate assessment methods for performance skills such as speaking and writing. For a balanced assessment program, a variety of assessment techniques should be incorporated into daily instruction.

Authentic assessments combine the traditional academic content with the knowledge and skills needed to function appropriately in the real world. The context, purpose, audience, and focus should connect to real-world situations and problems.

These are the various assessment methods used in the current educational scene. Although these work at present, the assessment scene is changing to support the requirements of the growing minds of students. Education can effectively function using the next generation tools.

Pros of Tech in Assessment

Teaching a large number of students in different classes and getting students to take a test is a tough challenge. Teachers find it time-consuming to conduct assessments such as assignments and tests through manual processes. They are also unable to communicate the results in real time with students and parents. Why not automate the classroom processes to make it much faster and easier for teachers and students?

Niyati Chitkara shares, “At Chitkara, when it comes to assessments, tracking and monitoring innovative progress, and performance and behaviour of Generation Z and Alpha, we make sure that all are assessed on a regular basis for the development of the students. Assessments at Chitkara are technology-driven, research-oriented and are disseminated by the school’s ERP communication system in a way that together benefits both parents and students. Our teachers engage with many classroom technological tools to collaborate, communicate and be the producers of technology, information and innovation. Digital software like Maths Buddy, Extra Marks, Bilog MG3, Pascale, Wingen and BIRT streamline our assessment practices in a significant way.”

With the introduction of technology, a variety of new age tools are used in classrooms that help the teacher. Cloud, digital and mobile technologies are increasingly used in the classroom for identifying and evaluating students in higher education. 

Manohar Lal, Principal, Delhi Public School, maintains, “Currently the online and technology-based solutions used at school are smart boards for the junior to senior classes. Assignments and class notes are uploaded, an online marking scheme and solutions are provided for term exams in all the subjects and result preparation and analysis are done from junior to senior classes.”

When technology is used, feedback can be continuously tracked in understanding how much a child has understood during the teaching process. There is no need to wait till the end of a lesson. There is a lot that can be assessed by talking to the child, but in a classroom setting that would not be practical. This is where technology comes in, providing ways to assess children’s understanding and learning.

One such tool developed by Jim Minstrell and Earl Huntand at the University of Washington, is the Diagnoser. This program is designed to give teachers insight into a student’s conceptual understanding of high school science. The program asks a series of questions, which are designed to test deep understanding. The goal is not to elicit the correct answer, but to understand how the student arrives at the answer they have chosen. Gravity, for example, is one of the modules the program addresses. Gravity is frequently misunderstood, and many students often believe that heavy objects fall more rapidly than light ones. The Diagnoser is designed to ask a series of questions about the behaviour of a bowling ball and golf ball -- if both are let go at the same time, which will hit the ground first? Through a series of questions, the teacher gets an insight into the student’s understanding of the basic principles behind their choices. What are their miscomprehensions? With a clear view of his class misunderstandings, the teacher can shift emphasis and redesign his instructional plans in mid-course.

Also continual feedback between teachers and students generates a way of teaching that is very different from the traditional approach. It becomes more like sailing a ship, with the teacher constantly adjusting course. The goal is set, but the actual path responds to the needs of the individual students. That is a model for what assessment looks like when it occurs continuously during instruction.

With online assessments, uploading and sharing assignments, conducting online tests, assigning grades, storing study materials, and creating lesson plans becomes extremely simple and saves time. Using automated tools is the easiest way to streamline the academic and administrative processes.

Ease of Online Assessments

Online evaluation tools that are cloud-based are used for better and quicker results. An online examination has proved itself to be highly interactive, customisable, trustworthy, secure, can be accessed in multiple devices and is a great solution for busy class schedules. Online examination makes it easier to evaluate and grade for all types of tests like multiple choice questions, and also provides instant feedback to students.

Assessing student learning at regular intervals is critical to institute success. Teachers can monitor the progress of each student in real-time and can help and guide students. Cheating and frauds can be eliminated during online tests. We often hear how examination papers are leaked which calls for the exam to be cancelled. Technology can help to change the way forward for traditional paper based examination and how they are distributed to the students. Examination papers can be distributed using the internet which has the added security of encryption technology that can be downloaded and viewed only 15 minutes before the actual examination starts. This would solve the leakage of the examination papers.

With advancements in technologies, faculty and students are getting computer and mobile savvy, leading institutions to want to transform traditional teaching and learning in classrooms. Niyati Chitkara shares, “Talking about the value of technology-based solutions for assessments, it has helped us to alter the DNA of every child in our school. It stimulates research and innovation in the school, and the result is smart, quick-witted and insightful children. Technology-based assessments have changed the way how teaching was being imparted; it has changed the entire teaching-learning process by modifying learning and assessment techniques. It has improved the school’s teaching efficiency and also helped us to revise the teaching methodologies which were obsolete.”

Through technology used for assessments, we are able to have a better outreach, see feasibility to share the results with the parent community, and also cater to just-in- time feedback. Also, the online platform gives us an opportunity to customise the assessments framework, study the learning curve and have individual handholding in an explicit way. The comfort of remote access to learning resources and doing it in one’s own space are influencing educators to effectively use technology as assessment tools to evaluate students and increase student success.

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