Assessment is one of the cornerstones of learning, along with instruction, practice, and application. Without assessment, we can’t measure how our instruction impacts our students. As remote learning redefines our definition of a classroom, we need to redesign assessments so we can understand the depth of knowledge of all of our students, be they in front of us or on our screens.
One major hurdle that many teachers face is that remote learning makes it difficult for students to complete hands-on activities. So, what can educators do to bridge the digital divide? Simple. Embrace authentic assessments and use the right tools for an online delivery environment for all of your students. I chose TeacherMade and I’m glad I did.
Here are six steps you can follow so that you can incorporate the best authentic assessment into your remote high school science class.
Before you can begin developing the best authentic assessment for your class, you need a clear understanding of what it is.
In simple terms, authentic assessment can be thought of as the application and synthesis of knowledge to demonstrate mastery of a concept. Students must take what they’ve learned in a classroom and apply it to solve real-world problems.
Authentic assessments do not have to be long, summative assessment projects. Instead, they can be short, formative assessments to monitor understanding throughout a unit.
Before you begin developing an authentic assessment, be sure to clearly define what you want students to be able to do. For example, is it a lengthy application of a complex topic in a unit for a summative assessment? Or, is it quickly synthesizing some information to solve a real-world problem to be used as a formative assessment?
Remote learning opened a large gap in hands-on activities and assessments in my high school science class. There are many options available in the form of virtual lab simulations, online videos, or the opportunity to live stream demonstrations.
However, the opportunity to assess these hands-on practical skills remained elusive.
Before developing the best remote, authentic assessment, I needed to ask myself one question. “How can I assess the steps students would take to solve a complex problem or apply data to a given scenario?”
From there, I explored different online applications to help me develop the best authentic assessment for my remote classroom.
I know there is nowhere near enough educational time to reconfigure everything. We all know we can’t change entire curriculums, learn new technology, and create new activities, assessments, and interactive worksheets overnight. (Even though this past year, it seems like that is all we did.)
After all, our jobs still require us to maintain a connection with our students. At a certain point, the process of re-inventing the wheel became overwhelming. So, I decided to slow down and focus on what could work, given the conditions.
I asked myself, “What tool can help me develop and deliver the best authentic assessment within the remote learning classroom?”
The site that worked best for me was Teachermade.com. It offers excellent solutions for developing authentic assessments delivered online to your remote students. For example, you can upload all of your reference documents and components of the assessment and turn them into interactive worksheets in one application.
Then, you can modify them as necessary. You even have the option for instant grading and feedback for the students.
Tools such as drawing, speech recording, and annotation allowed my students to apply data into graphical representations.
Many different online applications help educators enhance their remote instruction. Spend some time looking for the right tool for your class and then use it to create an authentic assessment that benefits students in your remote environment. I recommend using TeacherMade because it’s one of the easiest educational apps I’ve ever used.
Here is an example of how I developed a cumulative assessment within our Toxicology Unit. First, I started putting together a detailed prompt and autopsy report interactive worksheet in Google Docs.
Upon completing these worksheets and formulating some questions, I was ready to upload them to Teachermade.com and add various options for recording student responses.
My main focus was to collect as much information from the students as possible to get a glimpse inside of their thought processes.
The sample below illustrates how students could use the prompt to construct a general graph and a couple of calculations. Notice how I was able to incorporate multiple methods of assessment reflecting various levels of knowledge using the tools available on Teachermade.com
First off, I love that the fonts, formatting, and pictures from my original document stayed true as it was uploaded into the app. The second notable feature is that the table I constructed with checkbox options could be formatted to my liking because the app offers many options for how many checkboxes you can have in each row! This was the first question in the assessment and a very nice recall-type question to get the students started.
The most important takeaway from this step is not to be afraid. Your lesson might be great, or it might be a total flop. Just try it. Eventually, you will get the hang of these new applications, and they will become as normal as pens and paper.
Some lessons work great, and some don’t. It’s the roller coaster of teaching. Make sure you take the time to consider what worked well, and then modify and adjust as you move forward. The results of my authentic assessment above were so useful that I quickly identified students who needed help or added instruction in specific areas.
Teachermade.com even offers the option to reset or reopen assignments. Resetting and reopening are so helpful for reviewing with individuals remotely and offering test corrections or retakes. Students can access their returned work to review, ask specific questions, or make notes for future reference. Across my three sections, each class had unique discussions leading to clarifications in their areas of weakness. Being able to review multiple levels of questions relating to a specific scenario increased their understanding of the core concepts of the unit.
The overall flexibility of designing and putting together an authentic assessment through this process is truly unmatched.
When you are reflecting on your authentic assessment, be sure to think about the benefits of applications that offer timesaving features such as:
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the ease with which my authentic assessment in TeacherMade works with online classrooms & grading systems. My school uses Google Classroom. In addition to all of its other features, the ability to assign TeacherMades via the Classroom, which then uploads grades directly into our TylerSIS program, makes for seamless record keeping.
A few clicks of the mouse, and your classes are linked up and ready for assignment delivery. Again, all teachers in our “new normal” are looking for ways to efficiently and effectively offer resources and feedback to our students. The biggest takeaway is to try. It’s the only way to grow with these changing times because instructional technologies and remote instruction are here to stay. I tried TeacherMade and that has made all the difference.
Tiffany Scholle is enjoying her 13th year as a high school Chemistry and Forensic Science teacher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and master’s degrees in secondary education and teacher leadership in the life sciences. Tiffany has spent her teaching career developing curriculum and designing lessons that engage students in science and promote a continuation in the STEM subjects beyond graduation requirements.
As an extension of this work, Miss Scholle also collaborates with local Universities to work with other teachers on how to incorporate forensic science into their classrooms. In addition to developing new labs and virtual activities for the forensics program at her school using advanced analytical equipment, Tiffany also developed and ran a summer dual credit Forensic Science camp.
Out of the classroom, Miss Scholle has spent time working as a research scientist for various companies, including McDonald’s Corp., and doing grant work for the University of Hawaii. She is also the head cheerleading coach and coaches competitive figure skating. Her love of coaching and working with others to learn new concepts and ideas while they reach their personal goals is what inspired her to become a teacher.