Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Assessing Student Learning in a Remote Learning Environment

By Dean Graziano

I really enjoyed the article, Formative Assessment in Distance Learning by Andrew Miller. The article acknowledges that during online learning, whether synchronous, whereby students may receive immediate feedback or asynchronous, where students may not get immediate feedback, we MUST review our own instructional practices to ensure our students are indeed learning and understanding. While Miller gives some examples of the various on-line tools such as Kahoot or Quizlet to collect student content, or Animoto and Flipgrid for content–the target he is aiming for is the creation of a process for the educator to collect and analyze data. This data collection is a continuous process not a singular event.

The feedback an educator receives from their students allows the educator to see if understanding and knowledge is happening. More importantly, it provides a blueprint for the educator to tweak instruction, emulate activities/assessments for future classes, and provide this vital information to the student. If one is to reflect on some differences between face-to-face instruction versus on-line, the in-school instruction allows educators to also have a hand on the pulse of their students, specifically their well-being. Different body language, the way they enter your classroom, or asking for extra-help provides a more efficient and noticeable way to also address feedback on student well-being. Obviously, on-line learning does not allow educators to have a check on their well-being or how this experience has impacted them, especially if students keep their cameras turned off. (One can observe body language to a certain degree via camera, but not to the extent that face-to-face allows.)

One of the challenges will be choices made (infusing deeper questioning/critical thinking) to address student understanding that asks them to go beyond just a quick answer. This may involve a class devoted to critical thinking, what it means, and why it is so important. Timing and placement of such a class(es) needs to also be planned. Also, do educators give/allow time for students to think? Group work, discussion and allowing others to add to an answer is a good start.

The article stirred some ideas on how I might shake things up for both a student audience and professional development that I provide to educators. As the article concludes that ongoing reflection and feedback are crucial, the resonating theme is about formative assessments and feedback. One such area I plan on utilizing is a skill that will accomplish reflection and research by students as well as one of Forbes’s top three skills employers are looking for (an employability component and must-have post-secondary skill)–critical thinking. A way to stir up the classroom for educators or students will involve climbing higher with Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Questioning is at the heart of critical thinking, so you want to create an environment where intellectual curiosity is fostered, and questions are encouraged. Like law school, utilize the Socratic discussion method of inquiry. Students ask one another a series of questions that both test soundness/logic with the outcome(s) to achieve a greater understanding or clarity of a topic.


Dean Graziano, J.D., is vice president of izzit.org, the education division of Free To Choose Network. He brings more than 25 years of education experience to izzit.org, overseeing the growth and development of the teacher resource organization.
An award-winning educator and former curriculum specialist teacher, grades 6-12 social studies, Graziano served on the Massachusetts MCAS Standard Setting Panel, and was selected by the College Board to be an advanced placement reader for U.S. history. He worked on the historical inquiry model and a national presenter for ABC-Clio, a Social Studies data-base company.
In 2007, Graziano was awarded the United States Department of Educations' American Star of Teaching Award. He also was selected as the 2017 State of New Hampshire's Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator-of-the Year. His pilot program in Rochester, NH was singled out by Governor Sununu as the model for the State of New Hampshire Career Academies.
Graziano received his Juris Doctor degree from Massachusetts School of Law and he is a member of Advanced Career Technical Education.
He lives in Dover, New Hampshire with his wife, Barbara.