The global education market, particularly in higher education, is experiencing a rising need for formative assessment technologies and services. In a research report by Technavio, there are three emerging trends in assessment through social media platforms, cloud-based assessment platforms, and analytical apps. For K-12 and higher ed, this means the world of testing and assessments is expanding at a fast pace. There’s been a huge movement of students, teachers, and parents against standardized testing in recent years, so ESSA was a welcome change in that aspect. ESSA forced state education decision-makers to look beyond traditional metrics such as test scores and diplomas. And over the next few years, educators will be rethinking and redesigning assessment methods in many ways. In this post, we take a look at four lessons learned in K-12 assessments, as schools expand how they measure learning.

Diagnostic Assessments Will Become Essential
According to an NWEA study, parents generally favor schools using multiple assessment types. More than 80 percent of parents found formative assessments to be extremely useful, providing timely information to help pace instruction and better understand individual student growth. Teachers use a variety of diagnostic assessments with this goal in mind: skill checks, content knowledge, and K-W-L charts (graphic organizers of what a student knows, wants to know, and has learned). If it’s well planned, a diagnostic assessment can be productive and collectively bring together stakeholders into the learning process. They’re generally free from the high stress that accompanies state testing – they’re more focused on assessing a learner’s prior knowledge, interests, and strengths instead of a quantitative grade. Diagnostic quizzes at the start of a lesson or course, for instance, can help the teacher personalize learning by understanding the different strengths of students early on.

Get Creative to Better Engage Kinesthetic Learners
Even though more than 50 percent of secondary students fall into the kinesthetic learning category, the idea of increasing kinesthetic learning in the classroom has received little attention for a long time. They engage and retain knowledge the most when they participate in a science lab, field trip, drama presentation, or similar activity. The development of virtual reality technologies continues to grow in classrooms for this reason. However, these types of learners can be difficult to assess. The most effective kinesthetic assessments will have the student demonstrate what they learned on a topic or concept – such as team-based problem solving, creative diagrams, presentations, and role plays. One creative example is SHINE for Girls, a program designed a couple years ago to combine dance and math for kinesthetic learners in middle school. The early results showed a 273-percent improvement in math scores and 110-percent improvement in confidence (measured in pre- and post-formative tests).

K-12 Should Promote the Importance of Collaboration
Team-based and problem-based learning will be an integral part of many professions, which is why educators in K-12 and postsecondary institutions are starting to introduce group and other collaborative work. Experts anticipate that in 10 years, competency-based credentials will be prevalent after high school graduation. With this alternative to the college diploma, colleges and employers will be more interested in looking at peer assessments and portfolios to gauge an individual’s skill competency. Peer assessments are very beneficial for the student, because they increase the amount of feedback that they receive on a project and often serve as an external motivator to perform better. With group assignments, it can be difficult to grade each individual on performance; teachers lean on peer reviews that ask students to rank each others’ skills as well as provide qualitative comments. As an added benefit, this assessment tool will be a valuable learning tool for students as assessors – prompting them to engage in critical thinking and higher-order learning activities to deepen their insight on a subject.

Out-of-School Factors Are Essential to Measure Too
For some school districts, their students are interested in out-of-class activities offering real-world career experiences, which usually aren’t heavily weighted as indicators for student success. For Maine educators, they can’t ignore the importance of out-of-school experience for high school students. With some of their seniors working part-time jobs or pursuing careers in public works or construction, Maine’s public schools are looking at how they offer college and career readiness. Right now in Maine, they are debating the best assessments, now that they’ll have the power to change their metrics. While test scores would still be important, the new measurement system would take into account other achievements including community service, internships, and training at a technical center.