Chapter 2: Assessing Student Achievement in Digital Learning

Regardless of the format of school—remote, blended, distance, hybrid, simultaneous, or traditional—assessment continues to drive instruction and intervention. Quality assessments allow teachers to identify unfinished learning and unrealized potential and to take action. As referenced in Chapter 1, according to the ISTE Standards for Educators,1 effective assessment strategies that leverage technology feature several key characteristics that are explored throughout this chapter:

  • Educators provide a variety of pathways for students to demonstrate their competency.
  • Educators leverage different assessment types to meet learner needs, provide timely feedback, and inform their instruction.
  • Educators use assessment data to drive communication with students, parents, and other stakeholders to reinforce student ownership of learning.

It is clear that some approaches to digital learning have stood the test of time, and new ones have emerged as a result of the technology that is available. For example, collecting and analyzing students’ writing is an effective way to understand students’ thinking. Writing samples can be used to determine content knowledge, as well as control of language. Students can write at home, on paper, and take photos of their work to submit via a learning management system. In this case, the difference is simply the location and submission format. Past practices such as this remain effective strategies for determining what students have learned and for identifying misconceptions or errors in a timely manner. Of course, students might have written in a collaborative document and shared it with their teacher, but not everything needs to be digitized.

Newer tools useful in assessing learning might include video responses submitted via an online platform, such as Seesaw [portfolio-based learning application] or Flipgrid [video-based discussion software]. In this case, students can plan their response to a specific prompt and then record it for their teacher. They might have access to a rubric, such as a retelling rubric, to guide the content of their submission, and the teacher can use the rubric to determine what students have learned and what they still need to be taught.

In both cases, data are collected, analyzed, and acted upon. That is what teachers have always done and will continue to do. In the past, many educators clearly differentiated between formative and summative assessments. It is important to realize that formative and summative assessments are not discrete categories. The label attached to the assessment tool does not define its use. Most assessments may be used to gather either data or information which can be used in formative or summative ways. This may not seem like an important distinction, but the false dichotomy between formative and summative assessments has resulted in confusion and conflict in many schools and in the broader educational community. Educators collect data from students and use that data to make adjustments to their instruction and report progress and mastery to a variety of stakeholders, including the students themselves, their families, and the community as appropriate.

This chapter focuses on the use of assessment information (see Figure 2.1), which occurs along a continuum. It is important to understand the differences between assessment for, assessment as, and assessment of learning. When assessing for learning, the emphasis is on collecting information about a student’s progress toward a learning goal with the intent of validating or revising the instructional experiences students have. When educators focus on assessment as learning, they provide students with opportunities to consider the criteria for success and self-assess their progress. In this case, the assessment itself is a learning experience for students. Lastly, there is assessment of learning, which allows students and teachers to make judgments about the students’ performance at a specific period of time, often at the end of the unit.

Importantly, when teachers engage in assessment of learning, there may still be changes in the next unit or lesson based on the proficiency levels attained by students. Assessment of, as, and for learning are not necessarily discrete and separate. Assessments of learning can be designed also to serve as assessments for and as learning.

Figure 2.1. Assessment for, as, and of learning

Assessment TypeDefinition
Assessment for learningCollecting moment-by-moment and day-by-day data aligned with learning goals with the goal of improving learning and informing instruction
Assessment as learningEngaging students in self-assessment of the learning goals often using success criteria
Assessment of learningAnalyzing information about learning to make judgments about student performance and achievement at the end of a period of instruction

Many school systems have moved to restorative and equitable grading, which allows students to improve their grades as they demonstrate mastery across the year, rather than at a specific moment in time. In those cases, teachers hold the learning goals constant and allow time, instruction, and practice to vary. Without restorative and equitable grading practices, time, instruction, and practice are held constant, and success in meeting the learning goals (and thus grade) varies.

It is also important to note that some of the tools described in this chapter might fit into more than one category, recognizing that the use of the tool can change. CDE has developed guidance on how LEAs can use California’s approved assessments to evaluate where students are academically at the beginning of and throughout the school year. The state-approved assessment programs also provide additional resources and assessment tools, including the Smarter Balanced assessment system. In California, the Smarter Balanced assessment system includes assessments for, as, and of learning in an integrated manner consisting of three components: (1) Summative assessments; (2) Interim assessments; and (3) Tools for Teachers, a website designed to support classroom-based formative assessment practices.2 To align with the state guidance, this chapter will primarily focus on assessment for learning.

Assessment for Learning

Educators assess for learning in order to find out what students know and are able to do. The primary purpose for doing so is to make instructional decisions about what to do next, especially in prioritizing the teaching—and learning—that needs to occur. Many assessment-for-learning events are conducted throughout a lesson. They are usually brief in nature and give educators an opportunity to check for student understanding in the moment. They answer questions that are vital to the acceleration process:

  • Where might I quicken the pace of my instruction because my students understand this concept or skill?
  • Where do I need to slow the pace of my instruction in order to address misconceptions or partial understandings?

The answers to these questions assist teachers in improving the level of precision in their teaching. The evidence related to the use of instructional minutes suggests that there is time to ensure students are learning more and better. Nuthall’s 2007 innovative study of the classroom conversations between children unearthed a startling statistic; approximately 40 to 50 percent of the content being taught is already known to the students (Nuthall, 2007). The reality is that different students already know different things. Assessment for learning offers opportunities to identify what needs to be taught and who needs to learn it. This is accomplished through close monitoring of student learning and feedback that informs teaching.

Reciprocal feedback between student and teacher promotes student learning. These checks for understanding are first and foremost feedback to the teacher about the current status of learning. Assessment for learning, when used to its fullest extent, provides the opportunity for teachers to think about their teaching and make responsive adjustments based on current needs. In doing so, they strengthen the positive impact on student learning. While assessment for learning practices are ongoing, they are not chaotic. Consider three assessment cycles: minute-by-minute, daily lesson, and weekly.

The chart in Figure 2.2 provides an overview of strategies. By providing students with multiple means of demonstrating their learning, such assessment types also help further support practices called for in the ISTE Standards for Educators.

Figure 2.2. Types and Uses of Assessments within Assessment Cycles

CycleMethodsInformationSample Digital Learning Strategies
Minute-by-MinuteObservationsQuestions (teachers and students)Instructional tasksStudent discussionsWritten work/representationsStudents’ current learning status, relative difficulties and misunderstandings, emerging or partially formed ideas, full understandingRadio talkPositive and nurturing learning climate that invites participationTeacher noticing to determine next steps
Daily LessonObservationQuestions (teachers and students)Instructional tasksStudent discussionsWritten work/ representationsStudent self-reflection (e.g., quick write)Students’ current learning status, relative difficulties and misunderstandings, emerging or partially formed ideas, full understandingInteractive videosAsynchronous exit slipsSynchronous entrance slipsUniversal responses (hand signals, interactive whiteboard)Polling
WeekStudent discussions and work productsStudent self-reflection (e.g., journaling)Students’ current learning status relative to lesson learning goals (e.g., have students met the goal(s) or are they nearly there?Video retellingsInteractive digital notebooks

Minute-by-Minute Assessments for Learning

Much of the informal assessment data gathered occur organically throughout a lesson. Teachers observe the verbal and nonverbal signals of students and listen closely for questions that arise. In distance learning, these observational opportunities are somewhat different than those available during in-person learning. Digital instruction provides more limited visual information to rely on, as students are seen only from the shoulders up, in small digital boxes, and often with their microphones muted. If a student’s camera is off, some of these cues are further reduced.

It is important to ensure that the learning climate is supportive and positive and provides opportunities for students to ask questions during the lesson. Discussion can be awkward in a virtual environment. Students are often reluctant to interrupt, and the unintended result might be that teachers engage in extended monologues rather than true discussion. Teach students “radio talk” so that they feel more comfortable inserting themselves into conversation. A radio talk sequence begins with a student saying the teacher’s name followed by their name: “Ms. Ramirez. This is Deja.” This alerts the teacher to who is speaking and gives the student the floor to comment or pose their question.

Another technique is to remind students at the beginning of each lesson to use the chat function throughout the lesson. Teachers can monitor the chat and actively incorporate students’ names and comments into their teaching. Teachers can listen carefully to the questions and observations students make. Student discourse is often reflective of what they know and do not know in that moment. When a student poses a comment, teachers can engage in teacher noticing and try to note concern(s), and consider what students know and what they need to learn next or clarify. The focus here is not just deciding whether a student is correct or incorrect. If their response is incorrect, teachers can take the time to speculate about what may have led the student to that answer. For younger students, emoji checks can also be useful. Students can use the reaction buttons to respond yes/no or put their thumb up.

Assessment for Learning in Daily Lessons

Spontaneous interactions with students provide one type of opportunity to assess for learning. These should be coupled with intentional intermittent checks for understanding. This is especially important during asynchronous learning when the teacher is not directly present to gauge progress. Interactive videos have the potential to spur on student learning while providing valuable feedback to the teacher. Interactive videos are short recordings made either by the teacher or commercially prepared. The instructional video is segmented into parts, and the video pauses while a multiple-choice or short constructed response question is posed to the viewer. The video cannot advance until the question is answered. In the event of an incorrect response, some interactive video software provides the option to take the student back to the relevant portion of the recording. Interactive videos increase the accountability for students to view and respond during asynchronous learning. Importantly, the data report provides the teacher with valuable information about which students encountered difficulty and where they did so. Responsive teachers follow up with these students to provide further instruction.

Exit slips submitted after the conclusion of a lesson provide another opportunity for asynchronous assessment. A Google Form, interactive digital notebook, or online discussion board can be used to capture student learning, while also providing closure to the lesson. For instance, teachers can ask students to name something that surprised them in the day’s lesson, or pose a more specific content-related question (e.g., “Based on today’s discussion of the protagonist’s internal characterizations, how would you describe her conflict with the antagonist?”). Younger students can video record their response on Seesaw or another platform.

Entrance slips during synchronous learning alert the teacher to the current level of learning. Teachers can invite students to post their wonderings using a Padlet [a multimedia bulletin board tool] divided into three sections: Certain, Possible, and Uncertain. After introducing the lesson’s intention, teachers can ask students to consider what they already know or can speculate. For example, a fourth-grade class learning about the role of 19th century communication technologies in transforming the California economy were asked to respond to this opening question: “How could a recently arrived person in 1850 Sacramento communicate with her family in Ohio to let them know she had arrived safely?” Students’ postings on the Padlet alerted the teacher that the class already knew some things about the telegraph but thought that mailing a letter would be an easy thing to do. Students in a first grade class used Mentimeter [an online, real-time polling tool] to respond to an entrance question that the teacher read to them.

These beginning- and end-of-lesson assessments for learning might bracket other assessment opportunities that frequently arise throughout lessons. These additional embedded assessment opportunities are intentional, planned in advance, and may also be adapted to provide data in minute-by-minute learning situations. In a distance learning format, these might occur about every 10 minutes in order to maintain high levels of cognitive and metacognitive engagement. Many of these strategies involve the use of universal responses, which are micro-assessments that allow the teacher to check for understanding efficiently across the entire group. These provide more feedback opportunities for the teacher and gather additional data because they are soliciting responses from 30 students, rather than two or three. Simple universal response opportunities include nonverbal ones, such as using hand signals. Thumbs up/thumbs down gestures, as well as fist-to-five signals, enable the teacher to quickly scan to see where students of all ages are in the moment. The teacher is able to assess whether students need more time or are ready to move to the next part of the lesson. Hand signals often provide an intuitive way for younger students to respond.

Many schools supply students with small whiteboards and dry erase markers to show their work. The bright surface and bold lines made by the marker make it easier for the teacher to see student responses. For instance, a teacher might pose a mathematics problem to students and ask them to draw a mathematical model of it on their whiteboard. After students have had sufficient time, they hold their boards up to the camera, and the teacher reads their responses. Teachers can consider taking a screenshot of the students’ work so that the teacher can analyze it later. A kindergarten teacher teaching consonant-vowel-consonant words, such as mat, hat, and sat, had students hold up their personal whiteboards after repeating the target word several times.

When students are hesitant to keep their camera on, teachers might let them know when they will need to provide a visual response to a question. Students can show their thinking on paper, personal whiteboards, or using response cards, such as those with yes/no, A/B/C/D, or other items written on them. Teachers can give students a count when teachers are ready to have “cameras on” for their screenshot. Teachers can remind students that their thinking needs to be visible, not necessarily their faces. When teachers need cameras on, respectful lead times may increase the responsiveness of students.

Polling is a universal response technique that does not require a camera. Polling strategies can be deployed throughout the lesson or used as assessment at the beginning or end of a lesson to gauge student understanding. Many learning management systems have a built-in polling function. In addition, there are popular add-ons, such as Mentimeter, Kahoot [a learning game platform], Formative [a formative assessment platform], and Socrative [a formative assessment platform]. Polls can be set to ask about a mathematics concept, such as identifying when the solution to a problem is an example of a property. When there is widespread disagreement about the answer, teachers might consider resisting the urge to tell students immediately which response is correct. Instead, teachers might invite students into breakout rooms to discuss the possible answer with peers, justifying why they believe their particular response was the correct one. Students then return to the main room and repost the poll again. Most likely, teachers will see more correct answers the second time around because students have had the opportunity to test their assumptions in the company of their peers. In doing so, those who were initially incorrect gain insight into the thinking of others.

Polls do not need to be confined to questions with a single correct answer. Teachers may use opinion polls to spark discussion. Programs, such as Pear Deck [a formative assessment platform], provide students with the ability to place their icon on statements that reflect their opinion. For instance, teachers can create a virtual version of a “four corners” debate activity to solicit opinions and form breakout rooms. A high school class reading a short story about a crime of passion can be asked by their teacher if they believe the main character planned the murder in advance. Students could respond using Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree, or Strongly Agree. Their teacher can then open breakout rooms for them to discuss the point with like-minded peers. The students can then return to the main room for a hosted discussion. Methods such as this can be used to approximate the small-group table conversations that are used intermittently during whole group discussion. As with other universal responses, this approach provides a distinct advantage in that all students participate, rather than relying on the handful of students willing to respond to individually-posed questions.

Weekly Assessment for Learning Opportunities

Weekly assessment opportunities provide teachers with information about progress toward meeting unit learning goals. Weekly assessments are often accomplished asynchronously by individual students. Teachers might remember that these assessments do not all need to be assigned on Friday. Teachers can consider a rotating schedule in which 20 percent of the class is responding each day. A rotating assessment schedule ensures that teachers are far more accurately informed about the progress of the class and where adjustments need to be made.

Strong lesson design is grounded in stated learning intentions and success criteria to provide students with a clear sense of what they are learning and how they will know they have learned it. Clarity related to the purpose and intended use of assessment is an essential dimension and is manifested when the goals of instruction, the design of the lessons, and the assessments used are aligned. In other words, it does not stand apart from instruction; it is woven within it.

Teachers might consider designing no-stakes assessments for learning that are linked directly to stated learning goals. Students can respond in a number of ways. For example, students can record short video responses that address the lesson goals currently being taught. A student can submit a retelling of a story they have read. Retelling is a well-documented method of teaching and assessment for promoting reading comprehension (Schisler et al., 2010). An added advantage is that the teacher is able to view the recorded retelling using a retelling rubric and review segments as needed in order to check for understanding.

Interactive digital notebooks provide teachers with a “one-stop shop” for reviewing students’ written products. These notebooks are actually digital slides, and teachers can continually populate them with writing prompts and other assignments. Because they are stored in a virtual environment, materials and student products can be safely stored in one place. Teachers can assign a reflective writing prompt and then examine students’ efforts. As with retelling, consider spreading these digital writing prompts across the week so that they create a rolling record of how learning is progressing. For instance, a Biology teacher can ask students about Alhazen, a Muslim scientist whose early experiments on light, more than 1,000 years ago, made contributions to the field of optics for hundreds of years. The teacher can populate students’ digital notebooks with questions (e.g., “What were Alhazen’s methods for his experiments?”) and provide written or voice feedback inside these same notebooks.

Assessment as Learning

Assessment as learning practices and strategies provide students with an opportunity to learn more about themselves. Students might use a variety of assessment tools to monitor the progress they are making toward specific learning intentions. Consider changing the role of educator from that of arbiter and decider of students’ learning to the role of validator and challenger, based on students’ self-assessments. Given that educators are responsible for monitoring student learning, adjusting instruction to address assessed student needs, and for providing stakeholders with evidence of student progress, consider the opportunities distance learning might provide for improving students’ ability to monitor their own progress. Furthermore, the ISTE Standards for Educators calls on teachers to empower students with lifelong skills through actively engaging in monitoring their own learning, recognizing when they are not meeting their learning goals, and seeking and responding to feedback from others.

The value of teaching students to self-assess is reflected in the examples that follow. Among a wide variety of self-assessment strategies are know/show charts, single point rubrics, and ipsative assessments. All of these tools can be made more readily available to students through the use of digital formats. Consider beginning by asking students to self-assess the quality of their breakout room conversations. Teachers can share the learning intentions and success criteria for the day or week on the learning management system and then invite students to rate themselves on each in terms of current knowledge or skill during asynchronous learning prior to live instruction. By creating opportunities for students to use assessment information, they extend their own learning.

The use of know/show charts engages students in self-assessment. A simple chart, as shown in Figure 2.3, can be built using Google Forms [an online polling tool] for students to complete.

Figure 2.3. Learning Intention and Success Criteria

What do I know, relative to the learning intention and/or success criteria?How can I show what I know?
(Students complete.)(Students complete.)

In this case, students reflect on what they know at the time and record it in the left column. As they do so, they consider the range of ways that they might demonstrate, to themselves and others, what they currently know or understand. Imagine a group of students learning about the ways in which a poem’s structure or format influences the meaning. They might have learned to recognize various types of poems, the structures that poets use, such as rhyme schemes and meter, as well as aspects such as line length or repetition. Recognizing that the point of that standard is to focus on meaning and how structure and function contribute to understanding the poem, the second column invites students to consider how they might show where and how the author’s use of structure contributes to their understanding of the poem. This strategy also introduces the element of student choice into the assessment picture. Know/show charts also provide the teacher with the opportunity to review each student’s submission and determine which piece of evidence the student might be asked to expand upon.

Another self-assessment opportunity comes in the format of single-point rubrics or checklists. These tools focus on one level of achievement, usually whatever it means to be proficient. These differ from analytic rubrics that contain various levels of performance. Students can use these tools to analyze their own performance and identify areas of additional growth. As such, they become an assessment as learning when students’ come to understand what they still need to learn by engaging in the assessment itself. For example, a student who has submitted a recording of a retelling of a story, as explained in the previous part of this chapter, might self-assess their own performance using a single point rubric, record a revised and improved retelling, then submit both to the teacher. As shown in Figure 2.4, teachers can consider a single point rubric for constructing a viable argument in mathematics.

Figure 2.4. Sample Rubric for Constructing a Viable Mathematics Argument (Almarode, et al., 2021)

GrowsCriteria and DescriptorsGlows
How can I strengthen my work?My stated assumptions are mathematically accurate.What are strong aspects of my work?
How can I strengthen my work?My argument draws upon mathematical definitions and previously established results.What are strong aspects of my work?
How can I strengthen my work?My conjectures build a logical progression.What are strong aspects of my work?
How can I strengthen my work?I justify my conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to arguments of others.What are strong aspects of my work?
How can I strengthen my work?My argument involves the use of multiple representations (e.g., objects, actions, drawings, diagrams, and labeled equations).What are strong aspects of my work?

Notice that the student can use the middle column as the criteria. It is assumed that there would have been lessons related to each of the rubric elements before students engaged in self-assessment. Using this tool, students could consider their work and determine where they still needed to grow and where they had already met the criteria for success. In doing so, they focus their attention and learning on areas of need. Teachers can engage students in conversations about their self-assessments and the evidence used to make those judgments, reviewing the evidence to validate and challenge students’ thinking.

A third example of assessment for learning is known as ipsative assessment. These assessments invite students to compare their current performance to their own past performance (Isaacs et al., 2013). Of course, teachers can engage in ipsative assessment of students’ learning, but inviting students into the process can be a learning experience for them. Essentially, the idea is that students set a goal to improve their performance. It is analogous to athletes who focus on their personal bests or personal records (PRs). Of course, athletes and students are eventually compared with others, but the focus on improving self-performance can be motivating.

As teachers consider ways to accelerate learning and ensure that students have the opportunity to demonstrate improved performance, ipsative assessments have a lot of potential. Through ipsative assessment, students can set personal, realistic goals based on their current performance and then monitor their progress using the assessment tools that their teachers provide them. The specific tool is less important here. The critical point is to focus students’ effort and attention on improving their own performance and not comparing themselves to others.

Consider these examples:

  • Imagine a group of third graders working on fluency. The teacher knows the fluency norms and the evidence about words correct per minute, as well as the risk of focusing only on fluency such that reading rate increases but word knowledge does not. Taking an ipsative approach, the teacher would invite students to self-assess their own fluency. The students video record themselves and then analyze their reading. The students then meet individually with their teacher during a video conference to set goals together. They can discuss goals, including both rate and prosody (the use stress, intonation, pauses, and emphasis). When students understand their current performance and have a goal, they are more likely to allocate their time and attention to accomplish that goal. In this case, students engage in deliberate practice aligned with their goals because they understand what they are trying to accomplish. It becomes much less teacher-directed and much more student-directed.
  • Similarly, a group of Algebra teachers can organize their curriculum by big ideas. For each big idea, they develop performance tasks aligned with those concepts. They ask students to score their own assessments. Students then analyze their results, develop plans, and set a goal for improvement. Each student uses the following frame to analyze their performance:
    • Students are encouraged to participate in additional assessment opportunities and update their analyses. The teachers provide lessons, peer teaching opportunities, practice, and feedback. They also conference with students about their analyses and goals. In doing so, teachers share responsibility for learning with students and invite students into the process. Assessment opportunities that engage students in their own assessment are also valuable tools to utilize during virtual parent-teacher conferences. A student can discuss their progress and goals using the data they have collected during the grading period.

Assessment of learning

The final type of assessment focuses on students’ demonstration of proficiency or mastery of the standards. Teachers use a number of different tools in the summative assessment of learning. Teachers should be aware of the vulnerability of test items to simple internet searches, which requires alternate ways to know what, and how much, students have learned. Such methods are critical to alignment with the ISTE Standards for Educators, which calls on educators to communicate that data on a continuous basis to students, parents, and other relevant stakeholders further guide instruction and learning strategies.

Performance assessments provide an alternative to traditional tests. The key feature of performance assessment is that it requires the student to produce an artifact, such as a report, experiment, or performance, which is evaluated against specific criteria. The range of performance assessments is wide, from speeches and presentations to projects and debates. Examples of performance assessments teachers have used to assess mastery of the content standards include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Physics students were provided materials to make a vehicle powered by a mousetrap. They constructed these devices at home under the guidance of their teacher. They then had to collaborate in small groups to experiment with various designs that met the established criteria, which included propelling the vehicle 10 feet forward and at least three feet backward. They had to record various attempts and document the changes they made each time as they worked toward success. In their final reflection, they were asked to apply principles of physics to the experience using their digital interactive notebooks. Students were assessed as a group on their scientific skills and individually on their written products.
  • Middle school history students were given debate topics and randomly assigned pro or con positions. They conducted individual research asynchronously and worked with their groups during synchronous learning to prepare for debate day. They had been taught debate structures, and the teacher used video conferencing to have students share their screens and make their points.
  • Students in fifth grade were tasked with creating reports of information. They were invited to select a topic from a list or propose a similar one. They knew that the written report needed to meet specific criteria in terms of organization and voice. They read their drafts aloud and recorded them for asynchronous peer feedback. They revised their drafts based on the feedback received and submitted them using a collaborative writing tool. In breakout groups, they provided feedback to each other and then finalized their submissions for the teacher.
  • Second grade students were given a rich mathematical task to complete. They were tasked with solving the problem and recording a presentation of their findings for their teacher. They understood that they needed to use mathematics terminology and explain their thinking.
  • Kindergarten students generated a list of questions based on specific topics and then interviewed people to find the answers. They had been taught to start and stop the recording, and their teacher helped them assemble the various answers before sharing their collective podcast on Spotify [an online streaming platform].

Another assessment of learning approach allows teachers to focus on confirmative assessments. These assessments serve to confirm that learning has occurred. This might include formal tests, with some modifications for distance and online learning. Most learning management systems provide an option to randomize questions and response options and can be set as a timed test. This helps ensure that students are answering the questions and not just sharing answers with their peers. Again, this strategy is vulnerable to internet searches for solutions. Therefore, teachers may consider including skills related to consulting resources directly in the assessment. This strategy requires ensuring that the questions are robust enough so that students searching the internet can still demonstrate their learning.

The format of the test itself may require fundamental changes. For example, teachers can provide students with a mathematics test completely finished with all work shown and then ask students to analyze the responses for patterns of errors. Searching the internet will provide only minimal help with this task. Students will need to apply their conceptual understanding as they identify errors and consider the faulty reasoning behind the errors.

Other educators use triangulation of tests to increase their validity. Teachers might interview students about randomly selected items following the test. Alternatively, students might write a justification for selected items. For example, if students choose item b for question 10, they would write a brief justification for their response. Each student could be assigned different questions and responses to justify.

Finally, there is evidence that having an honor code, a public commitment ceremony, and frequent reminders of this before each assessment can reduce dishonest behavior fairly significantly (McCabe et al., 2010). For example, the first question a teacher might ask on an assessment might be, “What does it mean to you not to ‘cheat’ on this assessment?” The last question presented might be, “Did you live up to the expectations you set for yourself in question 1? Is there anything you need to tell me?” Reminding students about who they want to be can help them focus on what they have learned and show you that authentically. This is especially true when they know that it is never too late to learn and that there are multiple opportunities to demonstrate success.


There are a number of tools educators can use to guide their instructional decisions as well as the information they report back to their community of learners. For distance learning to be effective, educators must maintain the link between assessment and instruction. As educators have noted, there are a number of ways to use assessment information, and some tools can be used for multiple purposes. Knowing what students need to learn, aligning instruction with those learning goals, and collecting evidence of learning are the hallmarks of effective educators, regardless of the location in which learning occurs.