Technology is part of our daily lives. Schools have taken big steps towards using online resources and tools, but we can expect online learning to have a more important role in students’ education due to the pandemic.
Variations of blended learning were applied in classes before. However, the challenges that education around the globe is facing have triggered a transition to full time online learning, or at least a hybrid model of classroom and digital instruction and learning.
In this respect, although schools will completely reopen sooner than later, I believe they will not let go of what educational technologies and online learning environments have to offer. Most probably, schools will use a blended approach to education by mixing offline and online instruction.
Blended instruction depends on aspects such as teacher training, access to technology, and funds. It can also vary from using some online resources to equally mixing face to face instruction with online learning. But one thing is certain: teachers need to consider the way they assess students in these specific conditions.
Assessment is often associated with quizzes, exams, and summative assessments. However, summative assessments offer a limited perspective. They provide little information to guide teaching because they usually serve as the endpoint of an instruction period.
There's more to assessment that needs teachers' attention. As opposed to summative assessments, which are assessments “of” learning, formative assessments are assessments “for” learning, able to influence the teaching content, adjusting and adapting it to meet individual student requirements.
Blended learning provides new opportunities for evaluation. Here’s how to make the most of the assessments in each phase of the blended instruction.
How to manage assessments in the blended classroom
Blended instruction consists of three main phases that correspond to different levels of formative assessment. Each type of assessment targets specific aspects, all with a common purpose of knowing where students are along their learning path and how they can reach the outcome you envision for them.
Formative assessments provide a significant shift in perspective. It is critical to the success of any student-centered approach, especially in a blended class.
Next, I will outline the different phases of blended learning and share the secret ingredients for formative evaluation for each step of the process.
If you mix these ingredients with an LMS, you can have all the data to track your students' progress and adapt your content to meet their specific needs. Moreover, such platforms give you the possibility to assess your students using different formats and address various skills.
Usually, this teaching phase allows you to assess your students’ background knowledge as a starting point for your instruction. However, assessing prior knowledge is not the only assessment opportunity in the pre-teaching phase of blended instruction. You can also assess students after they have interacted with assigned video lessons, an interview, or an article to pre-teach the concepts.
This step is important to discover the starting point for the learners and informs the instructor on how to organize lessons. Teachers can use online resources to help students engage with free formative tools to provide quantitative and qualitative data.
During class, the teacher needs to incorporate activities and lessons to help students build on the concepts they learned during the pre-teaching phase. In this respect, formative assessment tools provide the opportunity to assess whether or not the students are effectively applying the concepts.
Moreover, blended learning gives students more independence, and so the evaluation aspect takes new forms as well. During this phase of the blended learning process, students can select resources and online tools on their own to demonstrate learning objectives.
Analyzing the results gives both teachers and students insight into whether they need to revisit a concept or enrich the learning experience.
In the final phase of blended learning, after class, the students extend their learning by applying the concepts to new situations.
These situations lend themselves to even more formative assessments. For instance, as students exit the online class, you can ask them to submit what they felt was the most challenging aspect of the lesson or something they may have found unclear. This can be done using Google forms or an online survey.
Here, the formative assessment gives useful information to instructors. This way, they can create or select content to assign to each student to ensure they stay on track and meet the learning goals.
Blended learning is becoming the new norm in teaching. As a consequence, the assessment process takes new forms:
- You can assess students' background knowledge through digital resources to have a starting point and have something to build your lesson on.
- You can check student retention of concepts while teaching to see whether you need to revisit content or enrich your teaching materials by allowing your digitally native students to showcase their level of knowledge through the medium of their choice.
- You can evaluate students' ability to use the concepts independently after teaching to direct students towards more practice or a remedial process by using online tools.
All these steps provide you and your students clarity regarding the learning process and allow both parties to reach learning goals.