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The path to stress-free assessment


Assessment is not a word which gets many people too excited. Students and teachers alike may even shudder at the word. This, however, has mostly been caused by summative, usually high stakes, assessment such as SATs, GCSEs and ‘A’ Level examinations and the subsequent consequences.

However formative assessment, by contrast, is something that at its very heart is what every teacher knows they do anyway. Every question they ask in class, followed by every quick answer, or stumble, or awkward silence, is assessment in the classroom. The teacher uses that assessment to move a lesson on, provide scaffolding or support and to pitch their teaching at a level appropriate to the whole class as well as balancing some higher and lower ability differentiation. It is a built in strategy whether you are questioning the whole class or an individual and whether you are asking verbally or via tests or tasks.

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If your pupils are progressing at all then some assessment, followed by analysis of that assessment, has occurred. Assessment is not such a big problem. In fact it can be a huge timesaver in the long run. Assessment when used well is the key to unlock learning and the gap analysis saves teachers from going over and over one thing when there is something else which needs more time given to it. It must be acted upon and that must happen as quickly as is reasonable.

There have been times in my own teaching when the answers to simple questions can lead to a total rewrite of a lesson or task.

So what benefit is there of moving that assessment online or at least complementing your offline assessment with some cloud based? When teachers can react so quickly in a classroom why add an element of assessment elsewhere? 


Read our blog: Formative Assessment using OneNote

Well the very nature of school inspection and even in-school progress discussions, such as pupil progress meetings and the like, require evidence. The evidence is not the raison d’être for the assessment. But it is what tells us that the assessment, and teaching and learning, is happening. It is this cycle which is so important for individual pupils and for whole schools.

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Assessment online can also help a teacher to see how pupils have retained information, or to see how much prior knowledge they have before the start of a unit of work. Why teach basic fractions to a whole class if actually 80% are secure already and some small group work would be more beneficial? And conversely why move on from a topic when only 20% are secure? Assessments can take many forms but there are advantages past just evidence to using an online system for the assessment.

The main benefits include:

  • Workload – making one test for a class online is much quicker than creating a paper test. No photocopying. No formatting needed. And crucially, in all subjects there are questions you can add to a test which can be automatically marked by the system. Multiple choice, single word answers, match the picture etc., are all examples of these. Why take 60 test papers home to mark when you can simply log on to the cloud and see an instant gap analysis? It is also easy with online systems to save a test and reuse it for a new class the following year. Or to duplicate for multiple classes.
  • Using enriched content to bring the assessment alive – embedding video, images or sounds into an assessment is much easier to do online and opens up a range of opportunities that paper based assessment can’t
  • Scheduled assessments – with an online system you can pre-build a number of assessments and make them available to pupils on certain dates
  • Gap analysis – no more filling in huge paper or Excel based tracking grids yourself with question answers. Online systems invariably have some kind of gap analysis easily available to save you the trouble. Many even come with lovely pretty graphs which need no effort from yourself whatsoever!


So if you want to use formative assessment and save yourself valuable time then look into online testing. All you can possibly lose is an evening of marking tests! Treat yourself to a box set and a takeaway instead. I insist!


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