Monday, 7 May 2012

Technology to support formative assessment

I've been doing a bit of research about how I may use ICT to support formative assessment. The following is a summary outlining some of the benefits and methods that may support the increasing use of ICT to overcome barriers of traditional formative assessment and support teachers in developing students as more independent, reflective and self-actualised learners.

Valid and high quality formative assessment underpins all successful learning and teaching processes and has the potential to improve learning outcomes for students. While in many ways, technology used for assessment is still in its infancy it is a logical step that our assessment modes become increasingly electronic to match the growing use of ICT in the classroom. Technology has the ability to support robust formative assessment through the use of blogs, picture taking, audio files, e-portfolios, online quizzes, telephone conversations and SMS messages, online simulations and text-mining software supported by appropriate pedagogies.

The use of ICT to support formative assessment overcomes barriers of time and immediacy often faced by traditional assessment methods and is most successful when encouraged in the classroom. Many students have found that online formative assessment assists them in identifying what they don't know, supports new learning and improves the quality of questions and discussions during class time (Whitelock, 2007). Online formative tools may facilitate multiple retest opportunities and assessment that adapts to the learning needs of the student. Text-mining tools can scaffold students to write at more academic levels while increasing the autonomy of the student and quantity of available assessment opportunities (Hsu, Chou & Chang, 2011). The sharing of learning experiences with an audience through blogs, e-portfolios or pictures provide new forms for students to co-construct their learning and further the meaning making process resulting in deeper reflection and documentation of the learning process.  

Learning supported by online formative assessment has the capacity to be authentic, social and reflective of real-world learning. Assessment may be differentiated, based on internal fairness and allow students to utilise assessment modes that best suit their preferred learning style and needs (McGuire, 2005). Such assessment provides valid information for the teaching as inquiry process while highlighting students’ interests and needs. ICT automates some forms of formative assessment while maintaining quality and supporting the learner and teacher in demonstrating learning using tools that match our times. Concerns of validity and reliability may be overcome by offering authentic and interactive assessments and variety in tasks (Gikandi, Morrow & Davis, 2011).

The future of formative assessment using ICT offers improved collaboration across a global community and will become more holistically integrated in the learning process. Formative assessment will increasingly focus on the evaluation and attainment of skills which are transferable to a multitude of disciplines (Bennett, 1998). My readings support the increasing integration of ICT as a formative assessment tool in the classroom to improve learning outcomes though collaboration, reflection and self-directed learning supported by a myriad of paths towards success.