Editor’s Picks 2015, No. nine: Why you should stop testing and start assessing

By Torrey Trust
December 21st, 2015

One educator issues a challenge to all: skip the Scantron and discover what students really know

PLCs-communitiesEd. note: This year the editors selected ten stories we believe either highlighted an important issue in 2015 and/or signaled the beginning of an escalating trend or issue for 2016 (look for No. 1 on Dec. 31). This April piece, on the difference between testing vs. assessing, was published as part of Innovation In Action, a monthly column from the International Society of Technology in Education focused on exemplary practices in education.

testing-studentsDuring the first day of the semester, one of my students commented: “Your class is the easiest class I have this semester. You don’t have any tests.” I laughed, but the student was serious.

I teach graduate level courses about educational technology, such as Online Tools for Teaching and Learning. The thought of asking students to take tests to show their knowledge had never crossed my mind. My goal has always been to design courses that capture the interest of the students and inspire them to take charge of their learning. I just don’t think that tests can capture my students’ true learning experiences.

Don’t get me wrong, I still assess learning. I just do it in a way in which students often don’t realize that they are being assessed. For ongoing, formative assessment, I ask my students to design, discuss, build, create, present, reflect, and share. My students create videos, interactive timelines, 3D models, animations, tutorials, websites, wikis, blogs, interactive images, digital stories, podcasts, screencasts, presentations, mindmaps, and collaborative essays, to name a few examples.

These “creative products,” as I call them, allow my students to demonstrate their mastery in a variety of ways and provide me with a way to assess what my students are learning during class and make adjustments to my instruction.

Next: How to change assessment practices