Assessment for learning: going digital

In spring many of us moved our teaching online. As we go to press, schools have thankfully reopened, though many are following a blended or hybrid approach and for some the threat of further closures looms large. Even when we are ‘back to normal’ most agree that the events of this year will have accelerated digitalization in education and much of what we’ve learned to do this year we’ll continue to do.

In this blog post lets have a look at some practical ways of going digital with our assessment for learning. We’ll look at four areas:

  1. Written feedback on written work
  2. Oral feedback on written work
  3. Peer feedback on presentations in online lessons
  4. Progress tracking with an LMS

1. Written feedback on written work

Many teachers had their students submit written work digitally during the confinement. Google docs or Microsoft Word (perhaps your school uses Teams) are a good option here, as they allow for multiple people to edit a document in the cloud. This opens up big collaboration possibilities, but let’s stick to assessment for today.

Here is a simple example. Our student has done a piece of writing on a google doc about his trip to the seaside, which the teacher has corrected using the ‘suggesting’ function, so that the student can clearly see what they originally put next to the teacher’s corrections.

As well as error correction, we can of course leave descriptive feedback at the end. Below is an example of some feedback which was based on the success criteria for the task (using interesting adjectives, using key phrases, using past simple correctly).

The teacher has also left the student a task as learning often occurs when students get the chance to actively right their wrongs. Here the student has to fill in the gaps in the past tense verbs. All of this can be done on the same document.

Pearson’s tool MyEnglishLab also allows for error correction and adding comments using a colour-coded system:

2. Oral feedback on written work 

Another way to give students feedback on written work is to record yourself with a tool like screencast-o-matic. The tool allows you to make a ‘screencast’ – a recording of your screen with your voice over the top (also useful for presentations, which we’ll talk about later). Here, I give a pupil feedback on their email. I’ve used a simple colour-coding system too, with green showing what I was particularly pleased with and purple showing areas to improve. I can use my cursor to hover over these areas as I speak:

A few points to consider here:

  • You may consider some written feedback, highlighting the correct form, essential too.
  • Recording yourself can take more time, particularly if you create multiple files! One option is to create one long file and ask students to watch their part (if they watch feedback their peers get: so much the better!)
  • Approaches like this, with personal messages for students were valued in lockdown. Of course, depending on workload this may be possible to a greater or lesser extent.

3. Peer feedback on presentations in online lessons

Being able to give a presentation and speak in public is a useful skill and one that’s easily-honed in the ELT classroom. It can also be honed in the online ELT classroom – indeed, giving a presentation remotely is another skill that’s become increasingly neecessary. And the students listening aren’t twiddling their thumbs: they’re assessing. Let’s look at an example.

Our students have done a lesson on unusual schools around the world, including a reading text and a video. Their final task is a project about an unusual school.

This is the information they need to include in their project:

And this is their assessment rubric:

Of course, students can’t go from zero to expert assessors in a lesson, having them become responsible for their learning using learning objectives, success criteria, feedback based on objectives / success criteria etc is a big process in itself. One good way to practice is to provide a model of a productive task yourself and have your students assess it individually, then share ideas, then you talk about how they’ve assessed you. Then they do the task and assess each other.

So, here comes a model speaking presentation for the task above: can you assess it using the rubric?

So, how did I do?

I think I did the first four items well in both presentations. The fifth (linking words) I didn’t do in either. As for 6, 7 and 8, I did these very poorly in the first presentation, but well in the second.

I recorded this example with screencast-o-matic, but it can take place in an online lesson with both the teacher (for the model) and the pupils (for their presentations) sharing their screen and presenting a PowerPoint presentation.

4. Progress tracking with an LMS

For many of us, keeping track of student progress this spring was a real challenge and many schools ran diagnostic tests in September to work out what students had learned and what they’d missed during their period of enforced remote learning. Using an LMS makes it easier to keep track of pupil progress remotely.

You may have used tools like Edmodo, Google Classroom or Teams. The Pearson English Portal¬†is Pearson’s new LMS. Although it has many features, like providing front of class presentation software and the ability to schedule lessons on zoom, this post is on assessment, so let us focus on that: Pearson English Portal provides practice activities to reinforce course content and a very detailed gradebook to keep track of how your pupils are doing:

You can configure your gradebook so it provides you with the information you’re most interested in, such as how your pupils did on their first or second try, how long they spent on their activities, or how many activities they’ve done overall.

So, there you have it: going digital with your assessment for learning. Hopefully these ideas have given you some food for thought whether you teach face-to-face, blended, hybrid or online. Thanks for reading!






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