Five reasons most assessment tools fail to impress in primary classrooms
How many maths assessment tools has your school tried and ended up being disappointed with?
How many maths assessment tools has your school tried and ended up being disappointed with? Or maybe you feel like they are ok, but you are not really excited to use them? Maybe you have invested in multiple tools as each of them seems to solve one part of the puzzle. What is the common thread here? Why do these tools seem to disappoint us over and over again?
Often, assessments used in primary schools are an adaptation of maths assessment tools developed for older students that fail to provide equity and fairness in assessment design. These tools do not cater for literacy demands and developing motor skills, making it really challenging, if not impossible, for students to properly engage with them.
Think beyond gamification, as even platforms that incorporate it can have fonts that are too small or not recognise handwritten input if this is not tidy enough.
You are probably already asking these, but if you are new to evaluating assessment tools and apps here are some ideas:
Teachers are often stuck with inadequate resources and assessment data not fit for purpose, finding themselves unable to identify where students are at in the learning continuum. Some assessment tools provide only limited information about students gaps and competences, highlighting only areas that need more work. Not being able to pinpoint the specific concept or misconceptions that is preventing a student from making progress defeats the purpose of formative assessment.
However, a well designed tool will allow you to get granular data as well as report broadly on students achievement within a particular curriculum strand or substrand
These types of assessments are great for getting a rough idea about how one student is achieving, but the data is most powerful when looking at class and cohort reports, something that school leaders will find incredibly useful if looking to spot trends.
Make sure the tool provides flexibility in assessment type.
So you finally have all the data you need, but now you have to compile all the spreadsheets, filter things, match fields and from there work out what to do next. Chances are that by the time you are finished collecting, collating and organising your data is time to run a new assessment as enough new learning has taken place since the last check in. Good assessment platforms should provide you with dashboards and reports that present information with classroom use in mind. For example, grouping students based on their learning profile, or providing a list of students that have mastered a concept or are stuck in a particular area of the curriculum.
No assessment tool can replace what the teacher knows about a student, or can account accurately enough for human error (like typos). This can be incredibly frustrating for teachers and students. Just imagine knowing that you can count by 20s but the system telling you can’t and making you answer the same questions again. Or as a teacher having observed a student who can work with collections of 30 but has skipped a question in the assessment and now is flagged as unable to count to 30. Not being able to override the system can make the data irrelevant and inaccurate.
Assessing younger students is a complex task, and not having a multimodal approach to it can really hinder the results. Interviewing students is one of the most effective ways to assess students’ understanding, however it is incredibly time consuming and hard to manage (usually requiring teacher aids to manage the classroom for the day). Ideally, you want a tool that integrates the teacher student interview as part of the process, where students can record their answers and you can review those items that need your attention. This can have a tremendous impact on not only on how often you can conduct interviews but also allowing you to spend more time addressing the learning needs rather than trying to uncover them.
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