Assessments in a Challenging Time

text: Chemistry Assessments

What are we doing to help kids achieve?

Assessments: We think about assessments all the time. We have formative assessments, summative assessments, exit tickets, assessments tied to standards, final exams and, when they are not covered by a mask, we look at a student’s face and quickly “assess” the mood of the room. Maybe we are not perfect or experts at all things assessment but for most teachers, it is a concept on our radar that we constantly consider. Assessments allow us to make judgements about a student's abilities. The vast majority of teachers truly care about getting it right. Most teachers have a pretty healthy set of “tools” in their “toolbox” when it comes to assessment.

Most of these tools have served us well. Unfortunately, this is 2020. Most normal practices have gone out the window. Now there are teachers (me included) who have sections of a class that are face to face. Some students might be streaming in on the face to face classes if they are having to quarantine. Then there are the virtual classes. These classes are strictly virtual. I also teach a virtual class. So here is the question….what should an assessment look like that is fair over several classes of the same course that is delivered in multiple hybrid settings?

Most face to face students were understanding in the beginning. They would take an assessment in person and virtual or streaming students would take it online. There was a concern that some of the virtual students would have an unfair advantage. Also, some virtual students would turn in the assessment late citing “technical” issues. Sometimes ten to twenty minutes late.  Some face to face students are no longer as understanding with the process. So the question is, is there one type of assessment that is fair to all?

One option is providing an assessment that is open book and / or notes. The assessment is constructed in such a way that it would be difficult to answer through online searches. An example is an assessment that I gave students on units of measure. Students had to use a ruler to find the length and width of a typical piece of paper. I provided the density and the mass of the paper. They had to find the volume and then the thickness of the paper in different units of measure and with scientific notation. This assessment worked well. It stressed a process and a product at the end. Although I was satisfied with the assessment in both the face to face and virtual words, it is extremely difficult to come up with this for every unit.

So what would happen if assessments in the “new world” were 1 page open book assessments that stressed process over the answer and were required to produce a product? Isn’t this stressed in situations beyond the school world?  What has worked for you? If you have struggled or stumbled upon a type of assessment that works in the hybrid world, please consider sharing. We are all fighting the same battle…….what works for you?