Beyond Test/Quiz: 5 Creative Uses for Schoology's New Assessments
Schoology has created a new material type available in the enterprise platform called “Assessments.” While not yet a replacement for Test/Quiz (Test/Quiz will continue to be available for some time), this tool includes technology enhanced item types that allow teachers to gather evidence of learning in new ways.
With the release of new Assessments into Schoology’s platform, it’s worth thinking about (or rethinking) how we approach assessments and how they contribute to teaching and learning frameworks. Many districts utilize teaching and learning cycles or frameworks. The graphic below, for example, is adapted from my previous district, Cherry Creek Schools.
Image adapted from Cherry Creek Schools; used with permission
Based around 4 essential questions (seen in the work of both DuFour and Marzano), it underscores the idea that assessment (“Monitor” in the graphic) is a critical and ongoing component of effective teaching and learning.
Click here for a free guide on how to assess the impact of your educational initiatives using 5 levels of data.
In addition, many districts and schools are striving to have a “balanced assessment system,” or one that incorporates both summative and formative assessments in a thoughtful way.
“As we look to our future, if we wish to create a different reality and tap the full potential of assessment as our ally in improving student learning," explains Rick Stiggins in his paper New Assessment Beliefs for a New School Mission, "we must refocus our efforts around a new overarching assessment belief: we must strike a balance between standardized tests of learning and classroom assessment for learning.”
5 Ideas for Using Assessments in New Ways
When you first create an Assessment in Schoology’s LMS, you’re given various options for “Questions.” This might lead you to think that this is only for the typically summative realm of the test or quiz.
That’s not necessarily wrong. They absolutely can be used for a test or a quiz; however, it might serve us better to think about these as “activities” rather than questions. Since an assessment can really encompass any activity that provides insight into learning, we should be considering what else we can do with Assessments beyond the test or quiz to help us get into the space of balanced approaches.
Idea #1: Capture Student Annotations, Processes, or Brainstorming
Let’s say you want to see how students are thinking about a process—or how they might brainstorm ideas for a project or topic. You aren’t necessarily looking for a right or wrong way to do something, but you want to see their ideas flow. The "Highlight Image" question type would be a great way to approach this type of interactive activity.
Students can write on top of anything you upload (graph paper, concept or Thinking Maps, a blank image, etc.). And the best part is that Schoology actually records the activity in the window as a movie that a teacher can watch to see the response unfold.
Like in the example below, you might use a graphic organizer to have kids enter information about themselves, their families, and their interests.
For those who are wondering about access on a mobile device, Assessments will be available natively in mobile later this calendar year.
Idea #2: Have Students Do a Self-Assessment on an Existing Rubric
Rubrics are a powerful feature in Schoology, but typically, this is a teacher-specific tool. If you want to have students do a self-assessment based on an existing rubric, there are several options within the Assessment material type that could be leveraged for this type of activity.
- One option (shown below) is to upload an image of that rubric and add a "Chart" question type to allow students to adjust each bar to represent which achievement level they feel they reached for each descriptor (Tip: allow all answers to be “correct” by setting the “Correct Response Threshold” for all possible ranges—e.g., 1–5).
- Use the "Highlight Image" option so that students can “mark” a rubric where they think their achievement levels landed for different criteria.
Because teachers (and students) can see their responses after submissions, this could then serve as a talking point for something like a writing conference.
Idea #3: Build Performance Tasks into Assessments for Later Scoring
Chances are good that not everything being assessed will happen in Schoology. Students can also show what they know by demonstrating or doing something performance-based (and this could be summative or formative). If it is tied closely to other items that are already in an Assessment, consider adding a placeholder for grading something “offline.”
You can use the "Short Answer/Essay" and simply put in placeholder text telling the student to move on to the next item. Then, when observing, you can score this item via an attached rubric. This isn’t dissimilar to using an Assignment with submissions turned off. But if it’s really part of a larger assessment of learning, you can include it inside of the existing assessment, even if the student won’t be submitting anything for that section or question.
Idea #4: Provide a Space for Student Reflections on Learning
If you are giving an assessment (either for or of learning), providing a space to reflect on the experience can help the student make connections to past learning and think about how they might further apply what they’ve learned. This could, of course, happen at a later time, but the closer the reflection time is to the learning activity, the better.
"Short Answer/Essay" questions are essentially just empty text boxes. These could serve as spaces for students to simply reflect on an assessment while they are still in the assessment. Depending on the settings, this could even be a space for a student to reflect further after seeing the score.
Idea #5: Use Multiple “Questions” to Build a Sequential (and Interactive!) Lesson
While you can create a folder of items that are tied to completion rules in Schoology, those items may not have the levels of interactivity that are found in the Assessment question types. Because each question in an Assessment is presented on its own page, you can use a combination of text, interactive items (like "Highlight Image" or "Label Image"), embedded content from other sources, checks for understanding, and areas for reflection or journaling that are contained in one assessment.
When considering the different aspects of a lesson (presenting information, checking for understanding, guided practice, reflection, etc.), you might be surprised to find that they can fit within as Assessment as different question types.
Thinking about Formative Approaches
As mentioned earlier, we need to be thoughtful about balancing assessments of learning and assessments for learning. If an item is truly only for feedback to help both the teacher and the student understand progress, it shouldn't count for a grade. There are several ways to approach this in Schoology with new Assessments.
- No wrong answers—For objective items that will be scored by Schoology, you can mark multiple options as “correct” and give each one full credit or 100%. In something like a multiple choice question, for example, you can mark each response as correct. This is an option for most item types in Assessments, so be looking for the correct answer setup options to take advantage of this feature.
- 0 point answers—Regardless of how Schoology scores an item, you can make it worth 0 points (this is also an option with Test/Quiz). As a teacher, you have the option of letting students see the number of points each item is worth as they are taking the assessment, but know that you can have an item marked correct/incorrect that has no impact on the overall assessment score.
- 0 factor—Like other graded material types in Schoology, you can always think about factoring something at 0. This can either be done at the item level itself (see “grading options” when in editing mode) or it can be done using a category that has 0 weight.
These options allow you to use activities purely for feedback with no impact on a grade. One suggestion is to be clear in your naming conventions if you are concerned about parent or student perception. Clearly identifying something as “feedback only” or “formative” can help communicate the purpose of the activity.
Evidence of student learning takes many forms, and the Assessment option now provides even more opportunities for students to “show what they know” in highly interactive ways. Something to consider now is how we can best leverage that, both for formative and summative purposes. We’re looking forward to seeing the various ways that people will use new Assessments—and the new ways we can engage students in deeper learning.