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Assessment Tips for Distance Teaching

Posted by Melizza Rios on May 18, 2020 7:14:49 PM
Melizza Rios


Assessment isn’t a new idea or one limited to teaching. We assess daily – What is it that I like about this television programme and should I watch it again? What criteria will I look for in my next sofa purchase? What is my diet goal and how will I check my progress in meeting that goal? Learners of all ages are regularly assessing things like clothes, games, movies, even social media platforms according to a set of criteria.

Asking and answering questions, writing in a journal, recording video, or taking pictures are all daily activities that can be incorporated into formative assessments while learning remotely.

The goal of formative assessment is to regularly check student learning to identify areas of need, address those needs via feedback, and possibly rethink next steps in a unit. Unlike summative assessment which measures learning compared to benchmarks or standards, formative assessment is low-stakes and its purpose is mainly to guide instruction. With distance teaching, giving a “pop” quiz or handing out worksheets to later review seems out of place. But the ideas behind these types of assessment can be made to work using the online platform your school has been directed to use. Let’s discuss some assessment ideas that you can implement now (if you haven’t already done so).

Simple ideas for quick, “on-the-fly” assessments

  • Ask a yes/no, thumbs up/thumbs down type of question. For example, ask “Do you understand how to use quotation marks in a sentence?” or “Are you comfortable using multiplication to check your division answer?” Students can show their thumbs up/down on camera or you can have them use the chat feature to type their response.
  • Give them one minute to “quick write” what they learned in the lesson. You can post the question on a doc and students add their comments. This way, you have a record of what they understand and questions they still may have.
  • After teaching a skill, post a problem. Have students work out the problem independently but post an answer with a common mistake. Observe if students recognise the mistake, then transition into a quick review or plan for a reteach, depending on the outcome of the assessment.
  • Use a modified think-pair-share. Have students write about what they learned and/or what they’re still confused about. Then have them join breakout rooms to chat with small groups. You can observe conversations and note concerns and/or misunderstandings.

Of course, you can always create a short quiz or survey to gauge learning. Google Forms makes this relatively easy and you can include multiple choice, multiple select, and short answer questions. But, the advantage of formative assessment is that you don’t always have to use quizzes.

Alternatives to quizzes

  • Provide rubrics so students can self-check. Of course, when introducing a rubric, spend time going over each piece and the learning targets. Regularly schedule “rubric check-ins” where students can email or message you their “score.” This serves at least two purposes: setup for a one-on-one session to provide needed support, and feedback for refining further lessons.
  • Have students record video or audio about their learning. They can describe a concept, process, or skill. They can also take screenshots of work and send via email. This enhances the personal connections made with each of your students that has been muted a bit by remote learning.
  • Ask students to write an informative letter to a friend, or short article to an audience of younger students, explaining a new concept or process. Encourage them to include details that the particular friend or audience would need to understand clearly.
  • Incorporate art and collaboration by having students sketch out a diagram, concept map, or infographic to explain what they have learned. These can be posted in the virtual classroom (i.e. Google Classroom). Classmates can post comments (positive or constructive). Even at a distance, students are learning how others learn and process new skills.

There are also a variety of assessment tools available online, and possibly your school already utilises some. But, to break up the (boredom) monotony of the same types of assessment over and over again, try something different. You may be surprised to find one or more of your students responding with renewed enthusiasm. As we all know, young ones are dealing with many feelings and thoughts about this unusual time in history, so injecting engaging and novel assessment ideas may help. Try a few out from this blog and share your experiences and/or your ideas!

For a webinar on assessing learning, watch:


If you or your colleagues are still feeling your way through using Google Classroom or Microsoft 365, we have on-demand, online webinars available for free: Distance Teaching Webinar Series. And if your school is ready to go beyond the basics, visit this link for customisable programmes:

Topics: assessment, distance learning, distance teaching, teacher tips, ed tech, education

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