6 Tips for Creating Common Assessment Framework Using Your LMS
Common assessments are an important tool for schools and districts to help ensure their curriculum is aligned to learning standards and that all students are progressing appropriately towards achieving those standards. While annual standardized tests are the granddaddy of all common assessments, that doesn't mean that a common assessment has to be hours long, high-stakes, or cumulative in scope.
By definition, a common assessment is any task that has most of the same questions or components for all students. It is given by all teachers in a particular level and content area at the same point in the curriculum. A common assessment might be a unit test, but it could also be a formative pre-test or a mid-year project. The important thing is that the content and expectations are the same for all students.
The Importance of Common Assessment Framework
Formative or benchmark assessments provide valuable feedback on how well you've taught something. This is critical information because it allows you to adjust your strategies to reteach a tricky concept if needed before moving on, which in turn boosts the odds that your students will succeed.
By designing assessments that everyone will use, schools also do important work in the arena of educational equity. Having a single standard ensures that all students are held to the same expectations and increases the likelihood that they will be taught the same items at the same depth as their peers across town. This helps clarify exactly what every fifth grader should know, and what every fifth grade teacher should focus on.
Finally, common assessments can actually help reduce an individual teacher's workload. When faculty members work together to make a common assessment, they can divide the responsibility so time isn't wasted re-creating multiple versions of the same test or project. Knowing exactly what will be tested also helps teachers focus their lesson planning more efficiently to match what's being done across the district.
Tips for Designing and Administering Common Assessments Via Your Learning Management System
If the idea of meeting with your colleagues to design an entire battery of common assessments sounds daunting, there's good news: Your Learning Management System (LMS) can make the process a whole lot easier than it would have been a decade ago. For example, Schoology's Assessment Management Platform (AMP) makes it easy to create and edit shared assessments online so that all teachers have what they need at their fingertips, at any time. There's also a bank of existing questions aligned to learning standards so you never have to start from scratch. Online testing and data visualization provide instant, easy-to-decipher results to see what's going well and what needs more work.
To get the most out of your common assessment framework, try these tips:
1. Ensure All Contributors Have Access
Every teacher who's going to give the assessment should be able to contribute to its creation. A cloud-based, instantly updated testing system lets everyone edit the work together, so it's easy to make a common assessment and tweak it for future use. Many hands make light work, and sharing test creation gives each teacher an equal stake in the outcomes.
2. Work Asynchronously
When you use your LMS to create assessments, there's no need to pile on additional team meetings to design tests — nobody has time for that! Allow teachers to contribute on their own time from home, school, or anywhere they have access to the LMS. Instant updates keep everyone informed of changes without having to be in the same room.
3. Design Backwards
Backward Design is a technique that works beautifully with common assessments. By starting with what your want students to know, you can design your common assessments around these outcomes first, then allow teachers to choose how they will get their students to those goals. The common assessment you create early on can then function as a mini curriculum guide or standards cheat sheet during planning.
4. Make It Engaging
Creating assessments that students can take online doesn't have to be dull. Use your LMS to add striking images and create interactive tasks that make it more fun for students to complete the assessment.
5. Integrate, Don't Isolate
One thing that makes end-of-year standardized tests so frustrating is that they have nothing to do with students' daily school routine or learning. Keep common assessments low-key by integrating them into classroom routines at predictable points in the curriculum. For example, opening each math unit with a common formative assessment will feel normal once you do it a few times, and this is far more effective than having one big, nerve-wracking midterm or final exam.
6. Use Data Visualization
One of the best things about using your LMS to administer common assessments is that you get instant feedback about how your students are doing. Use data visualization features to track student growth over time and compare results between classrooms and schools. With instant, beautiful charts and graphs, your results will speak to you in ways that help you actually use that data to inform your work.
Though the ultimate goal is to have a full battery of common assessments for your students, there's no reason to feel overwhelmed. Start with just one assessment to experiment with the features of your LMS and to develop the best system for your staff. As you work through your process, it will become more efficient and more natural to design additional common assessments together. Before you know it, you'll have a library of common assessments to guide your teaching.
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