Assessing Student Learning

Teachers who integrate technology into student activities and projects often ask us this question - “How do I grade it?”

Fundamentally, assessing multimedia activities and projects is no different than evaluating traditional assignments, such as written essays. The primary distinctions between them are the unique features and divergent possibilities associated with their respective medium. For instance, a blog has a unique set of possibilities (such as hypertext, embedded video, interactive imagery, etc) vastly different than those of a notebook (paper and pen notes and drawings within a contained document).

The first thing to realize is that you cannot separate the user from the device. iPads, Chromebooks, and tech tools themselves don’t demonstrate great learning; it’s about what students do with the technology that matters. The technology itself is simply neutral. Consider: would a teacher grade the pen a student used to write an essay? Of course not! They grade what the student writes. It’s what students create with the tool that is at the heart of learning and assessment.

Formative vs. Summative Assessment

Performance is most often analyzed through formative and summative assessment. Formative assessment is ongoing and provides information needed to adjust teaching and learning for a more effective outcome. It not only helps to monitor student progress throughout an activity, but can also gauge student understanding and readiness to proceed to further tasks. Alternately, summative assessment focuses on a particular point in time, such as a test at the end of a unit or grading term.Regardless, whether the immediate assessment is formative or summative, a teacher needs to be able to distinguish between the capabilities of the tool and the students’ performance using it. To illustrate, anyone can easily produce a visually stunning and captivating video presentation using iMovie as it has built-in easy-to-use professional effects. Therefore, to assess a movie presentation effectively, the teacher needs evidence of the thinking that went into the creation of the movie. Rather than grade the end product, educators must focus on the process -- research, writing, image selection, etc. This allows teachers to focus on learning throughout the whole project rather than the flashy, finished product.

Rubrics to Measure Student Learning

Providing detailed explanations of an assignment using an online rubric, created with tools such as Rubistar or Digital Media Scoring Guides, can assist students in both completing tasks and thinking about their performance. Additionally, these tools allow teachers to create rubrics for assessment quickly with a greater level of meaningful feedback. They can also easily be shared among teachers and saved or modified for future assignments.