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Want to put your data into action? Here’s how!

By Brian Sharp
chief executive officer, SmartEdTech
April 6th, 2018

The market for classroom-based assessments is booming, but what does that mean for student learning?

Classroom assessments represented a nearly $1.6 billion market in 2017, and that market is expected to grow by 30 percent through 2020. In fact, classroom assessment now makes up a majority of the testing market, surpassing state testing.

The benefit of formative assessments

Formative assessments are one of the most widely used types of classroom assessments. A key benefit is that formative assessment practices have the potential to increase student learning. With formative assessments, teachers check for students’ understanding during instruction—rather than at the end of a unit or course—and then adjust their instruction accordingly.

Digital assessments, which are quickly replacing print, are making the process even richer. Students can access a variety of item types that can make the assessment process more engaging—and more informative for teachers. Further, the technology can save teachers’ time by doing the number crunching and organizing the data to help them identify students in need of intervention.

But is all that formative assessment data actually being used to close the gap between a student’s current level of learning and the learning goal? Many times, it’s not. A report by the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing at the University of California, Los Angeles found that “teachers are better at drawing reasonable inferences about student levels of understanding from assessment information than they are in deciding the next instructional steps.”

In other words, while teachers are able to effectively interpret what the data is telling them about their students’ learning, they often have difficulty translating that evidence into action and taking the next appropriate instructional step to close learning gaps.

Too many education apps, too little time

With the rise of Chromebooks and tablets in classrooms, education apps can provide a cost-effective solution to address the diverse learning needs of students. However, with nearly one million education apps in existence, it’s easy to see why teachers are overwhelmed with how to leverage this vast amount of content to support students’ individual needs.

The reality is that teachers don’t have the time to research, find, and assign the best apps for addressing the specific skills that each student is lacking.

Bridging the gap

But what if educators had a vendor-neutral mobile-learning platform that could prescribe appropriate content to meet each child’s learning needs from a library of carefully vetted, high-quality apps from any provider? What if this mobile-app-prescription engine were embedded within a school system’s assessment or learning management system so that teachers could click a button and receive a list of the mobile-learning content most relevant for particular students? What if these apps were fully integrated into the platform to allow for single-sign-on access by students and allow educators to track key performance metrics and better protect students’ data privacy as they use the apps?

With this type of mobile-learning platform, teachers would be able to bridge the gap between assessment data and action to provide an individualized learning experience for students. By linking this platform with programs such as a formative assessment system, standards-based gradebook, or online individualized education plan program, teachers could simply click a button to produce a list of recommended apps to support the personalized learning needs of each student.

Realizing the promise of formative assessment

After teachers administer an assessment and review the results, the next logical question is, “Now what?” A mobile-learning platform makes it easier for teachers to take that next instructional step by recommending an intervention strategy based on a student’s needs. Then, as students work independently on the apps they have been assigned, teachers can track their performance and time spent as well as more detailed data such as prompts that may be required to support a student’s success with an activity.

With real-time assessment information and instant access to the right learning content, the movement from evidence to action becomes seamless, helping teachers realize the promise of formative assessment as an effective tool that can lead to personalized learning experiences for all students.

About the Author:

Brian Sharp has 20 years of experience in senior management positions with edtech companies. He is the chief executive officer of SmartEdTech, a mobile-learning platform that gives preK-12 educators the ability to more easily establish an individualized mobile learning experience for students.

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