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Using Assessment to Determine Student Progress

Using Assessment to Determine Student Progress

Author: Kathleen Johnson

In this lesson, you will learn the role of assessment in evaluating the progress of your students.

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you're having a wonderful day today. Today we're going to look at using assessment to really determine student progress. And for today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Ted Koppel, which states, "And if, periodically, you fail, as surely you will, adjust your lives, not the standards."

Now by the end of the lesson today, you are going to be able to understand the role that formative and summative assessments play within competency-based education. You'll also be able to review some of the advantages, as well as some of the challenges, of using assessment-based differentiated software.

So first let's go ahead and take a look at student progress and its correlation with assessments. So within student progress, there are two major ways that we can look at what a student is learning, the first of which is to look at formative assessments. So when we talk about student progress, we're really looking at student progress within competency-based education as that student's progress towards the mastery of a particular competency.

And it's important, as we look at that, as teachers within a competency-based education context, that we give what are called those frequent formative assessments, helping students to see, as they're going through, their ability to meet certain levels of mastery within that competency.

So a formative assessment is an assessment that's used to really help monitor that student's understanding as we work through a unit or a lesson. These tend to be very low stakes, meaning that there isn't necessarily a huge part of their grade that's based on how they do on these formative assessments. Now formative assessments can be used in many different ways. They can be used for diagnostic purposes, so looking ongoing, helping students to really take charge of that learning and determine for themselves where they are, where they're going, where they need to be.

Formative assessments can also really help teachers determine a number of different things based on future instruction, so helping to kind of map out what that future instruction should look like. Formative assessments can help teachers determine where students are as a group, as well as where students are as individuals, so seeing their entire class as a whole and kind of mapping out what are the other major areas of need of this class as a whole, as well as getting a look in at each individual student, saying, what can I do to help differentiate and meet the needs of this particular student?

Formative assessments also really help in terms of the data that's driven. They can help teachers determine the pace of that instruction, so how quickly or how slowly should I go to help meet that student progress, as well as helping to aid the teacher in determining what each individual student should learn next. These are the real benefits of formative assessments.

Now ultimately, what we're looking at here is the student's pace of progress and that learning experience should be shaped by the data from these formative assessments. So if we're going to fully differentiate a student experience, then that needs to be based entirely on those individual needs. So even though we've talked about looking at students as a group as opposed to just as an individual or as an entire class, if we're going true differentiation here, we want to look at those individual needs. But that can be really difficult. It can be really difficult to do.

Now I want to go ahead and take a little look at summative assessments. Summative assessments are different than formative assessments. Summative assessments are used at the very end of a lesson or a unit to help determine that student's mastery of a certain competency. So it's not necessarily for monitoring the student as they're working towards it, but assessing whether or not the student has reached mastery, or what level of competency they have within a particular area.

Also, summative assessments tend to be much more comprehensive. So they include all of the different aspects of a particular competency or learning goal as opposed to formative assessments, which might just hone in on individual elements or a particular aspect of a certain competency.

Finally, an important thing to know about summative assessments is that within competency-based education, there tend to be, or there should be, multiple opportunities for students to take those summative assessments. So if we have a student that's really struggling with a competency, they should be given multiple opportunities to come back and demonstrate that mastery of a particular competency so that it's never a one and done or a down and out. I kind of think of it as like, we're down but we're not dead, so we can continue to work through, and hopefully eventually show that mastery of a particular competency.

What I want to move on next is talk a little bit about various software programs and their intersection with competency-based education. So there are a number of different software programs that can really help facilitate that assessment-driven differentiation within competency-based education. So these programs are really beneficial in that they can help assess students and then determine, based on those formative assessments, what the next best learning experience is going to be for that individual student.

A major benefit of that program is that students can work on different competencies at different levels, but they can all do it at the same time. Software and technology really helps to make this possible within a classroom, whereas it's much difficult to, in an instant, come up with five different paths for the different students in your classroom right in that very moment.

Also, the pace can then be determined by the student's progress. So it's based solely on that student's demonstration of the mastery. Again, the ability to focus in on one student is aided by the use of that software. However, there can be some challenges that come with using softwares like this. First and foremost, they tend to have more limited options. So for a student to demonstrate mastery through that assessment, there probably aren't going to be many multiple different ways for a student to do that. So if you're going to use those software programs, you're going to need to work within the confines of what they have to offer you. Things like multiple choice or yes no-type questions are going to be much more common when we're relying on software.

Some of the programs can be exceptionally expensive, and not all schools have a budget for that, or districts have a budget for that. They also require access to technology, both in school and out of school, and maintaining the infrastructures of technology within that school. Again, not all schools are readily set up for something like this. And so this can be prohibitive for certain schools who aren't able to really meet the needs of this.

Finally, they tend to maybe lead to stronger performances for students who are more proficient with technology or prefer technology within their learning. We've talked before about one of the benefits of differentiation is that we look at students' learning preferences. If a student's learning preference isn't technology, then that's going to be difficult to include or work with if we are predominantly using a software program. So there are a lot of benefits that come with software programs in CBE, but also some challenges, and you just want to go in informed.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, you have been able to understand the role of formative and summative assessments when it comes to competency-based education. You've also been able to review those advantages as well as some of the challenges that you're going to encounter when we look at assessment-based differentiated software.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, I want you to think back over all that you've learned, particularly about the software programs within competency-based education. What do you think would be the most challenging part of implementing a software program that's based on those differentiated assessments into your teaching environment?

Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video. For more information on how to apply what you've learned, please view the Additional Resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The Additional Resources section is going to include hyperlinks that are useful for applications of this course material, including a brief description of each resource.

Notes on "Using Assessments to Determine Student Progress"

(00:00-00:19) Intro

(00:20-00:39) Objectives

(00:40-03:45) Formative Assessments

(03:46-05:11) Summative Assessments

(05:12-07:49) Software Programs & CBE

(07:50-08:50) Review & Reflection

Additional Resources

Why Formative Assessments Matter

This Edutopia article explores the purpose and use of formative assessments. The article stresses the importance of using formative assessment results to drive instruction.