Paper assessment (when students complete handwritten assignments) is, for many, the most trusted way for students to communicate what they’ve learned and for educators to understand the nuances of what it is students know (and don’t know). In turn, reviewing written student work is a way for educators to activate students as owners of their own learning and as learning resources for each other (Dylan Wiliams, 2013).
Assessment is an opportunity to evaluate learning and provide feedback to students in hopes of improving outcomes. It allows the instructor, according to Wiliams, “to make better judgments about when to push each student and when to back off. Second, when students trust the teacher, they are more likely to accept the feedback and act on it.”
Unlike multiple-choice exams, which often don’t allow for detailed or student-specific feedback, handwritten (or paper assessment) allows teachers to examine the relationship between teaching methods and student learning outcomes; this intersection is critical to both teaching efficacy and student learning.
Paper assessment has the following advantages:
- Students have to demonstrate the depth of their knowledge of a concept--there’s no such thing as “guessing” the right answer.
- Students have to articulate their knowledge in written assessment--they not only have to think and remember, but also communicate their process, providing transparency into their specific stage of understanding.
- Instructors have the opportunity to provide specific, targeted, and nuanced feedback while building individual relationships with students. Positive feedback in remote learning environments is particularly significant in nurturing extrinsic motivation in students, which then leads to better student learning outcomes.
For online learning, paper assessment is traditionally less enforced for logistical reasons. But technology has its strengths, too.
Online assessment demonstrates the following advantages:
- Students receive results quickly, enabling a faster feedback loop between the educator and students, as well as a faster feedback loop between the content and demonstrated understanding of course material. Assignment or exam results can help students prepare differently for the next assessment, which improves student learning. Also, awaiting exam results is stressful for students and affects learning outcomes.
- Online assessment, in many cases, can afford flexibility. Students have the possibility to take assessments anytime, anywhere, per the instructor’s parameters.
- Online assessment tools can accommodate learning differences, from short text and voice features to extensive written feedback.
- Instructors can save time grading online with resources that standardize rubrics and feedback.
- Time savings from online assessment can improve student learning in remote learning. Research states that frequent, low-stakes assessments paired with formative feedback are crucial in the realm of remote learning, where students are more reliant than ever on teacher feedback. On the other hand, single and defined high-stakes assessments can have an extreme, negative effect on student lives. Frequent, low-stakes assessments can mitigate the impact of one good or bad grade and instead reward consistent, quality efforts.
- Instructors can more easily engage in item analysis to see what it is students know or don’t know and use data to drive teaching effectiveness.
So, how can we maintain the rigor of a known and trusted process of using handwritten work for demonstrating knowledge within the confines of a distance classroom? How can technology address the increasing demands for shifting learning and adapting assessment for remote workflows? And how do you do both with integrity to nurture student motivation, strongly linked not only to learning outcomes but academic integrity?
Written assessment needn’t be cast aside in the realm of remote learning; with Gradescope, students can do work on paper and then upload them for assessment and feedback from their instructors. In this way, educators can uphold the rigor and faith in traditional assessments by using technology.
The classroom environment may change, but quality assessment can be retained, even from a distance. Traditional and trusted methods can be paired with the new workflows of remote learning with support from technology like Gradescope. Pedagogical best practices uphold student learning--and we hope this helps you in your transition to assessment in remote learning.