Everyone knows the importance of evaluating how a school’s technology programs are working and how they’re being received by teachers, students, parents, and staff. But creating an assessment that elicits useful information is difficult. Here are eight tips for designing an assessment program:

  1. Carefully define assessment goals. There are many reasons to assess technology, but the ones that are crucial must be carefully defined. At the very least, it is crucial to understand if the assessment is asking broad questions or is homing in on specific issues that have arisen in other assessments.

  2. Write specific questions. Does this particular use of technology lead to academic gains? Is technology motivating students—and in what ways? Does the use of technology change the way teachers teach? These are the types of questions that get at the heart of technology’s use in the classroom.

  3. Quantify when possible. Some questions can be answered relatively easily with numbers, such as attendance and (to some extent) improved test scores. Other questions, such as student attitudes, often can be quantified with a few survey questions.

  4. Use multiple assessment methods. Merely considering test scores will not provide comprehensive information on the influence of technology in a school or district. A combination of assessment methods—such as data-gathering, surveys, interviews, and observations—is superior.

  5. Centralize the collection of data. Setting clear deadlines for collecting information and giving one person authority over the process will help complete the task in a timely manner.

  6. Analyze the information. Data that are collected should be used, regardless of the conclusions to which it leads. If the data are complex, it might be necessary to contract out for formal statistical analysis. At other times, the data may be so compelling that multiple layers of analysis are not necessary.

  7. Publicize the information. Don’t limit the sharing of information to a select few. Tell all your audiences—teachers, staff, students, parents, the community—though different groups may not need the same levels of information. The results should include a summary of recommendations for action.

  8. Follow up with action. Do what you’ve recommended.