An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management, The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback and 100 Awesome Online Learning Apps)
Updated May 31st 2021
School closures due to lockdowns have presented teachers with two major challenges:
- How to teach students effectively using online tools
- How to assess and give feedback to students accurately and efficiently via remote-learning technology
Most of the books and blogs I’ve read deal primarily with the first of these two challenges. In fact, I even jumped on this bandwagon with some blog posts of my own (here, and here and here) and by publishing my latest book: 100 Awesome Online Learning Apps (which also includes some advice for assessment when teaching from home).
This focus was understandable in the early days of COVID-19: teachers had to adapt quickly and schools had to put systems in-place that were safe and efficient to use. We’ve now reached a point, however, where we need to start thinking seriously about the ways in which we are going to assess our students and provide high-quality feedback whilst teaching from home.
Thankfully, I’ve done some of the serious thinking for you. I’ve been testing a number of methods with my students over the past two months and I’ve distilled the mix down to to a few methods that seem to work best.
Tip #1: Use screen-share functions to quickly assess, give feedback and offer guidance
Any kind of screen share in a video-conferencing tool can be amazing for providing quick feedback. I currently use Google Meet with my students, and I use the screen share in the following ways:
- To quickly see student work and offer some verbal feedback and encouragement (students share their screen with me).
- To guide students through a process, because by seeing their screen I can show them where to click and where to navigate.
- By showcasing excellent work with the class. Oftentimes I’ll do this by asking exceptional students to share their work via screen-share with the whole class.
Tip #2: Get your students to build website ePortfolios
Do you know what an ‘ePortolio’ is? It’s basically a website that each student creates. To this website each student uploads their work, either as photographs of their notes or more complex pieces such as Google Sheets, PDFs and Google Slides.
Provided that you, the teacher, has the URLs for each students’ site, marking becomes a doddle. All you have to do is click through the list of URLs and mark the student work. With New Google Sites you can actually type comments onto the students’ websites (if the student clicks ‘share’ and then shares the site with you). With other platforms (such as Wix and WordPress), an e-mail to each student after checking the sites would work well.
Tip #3: Use automated assessment programs for your subject
I personally use MyMaths (for mathematics), Educake (for Science) and I have used Lexia (for English) in the past. Software like this often has to be purchased by the school, but the investment is nearly always well-worth it. Automated assessment programs usually come with detailed reports post-testing which can be ‘auto-emailed’ to the class teacher.
Systems that cover a wide range of subjects include Kahoot! (which can be set as an assignment, providing excellent, quick whole-class feedback) and Quizlet (ask students to take a screenshot of their scores for tasks such as ‘Spell’, ‘Gravity’, ‘Match’ and ‘Test’). BBC Bitesize also includes a number of multiple choice quizzes at the end of ‘Learner Guides’, all of which provide model answers and explanations should students get questions wrong (Hint: Ask students to screenshot their responses and make a note of any model answers that come up to questions that were answered incorrectly).
Tip #4: Use verbal feedback in the same way as you would in a ‘real’ classroom (but with a twist)
Set students on a task, and, whilst this is being completed, have some one-to-one conversations with students about work that has been submitted prior to the lesson (e.g. last week’s homework). Use screen share to show the student their submitted work, and talk the student through the different parts. CRUCIALLY – ask the student to write down or type what you’ve said on the piece of work somewhere (e.g. “Mr Rogers said that I must make my diagrams larger and neater, and I must always label every part”). Then – ask the student to re-submit the work (so that you can check that those comments have actually been written).
Bonus tip: Try exam.net
Exam.net is a place where you upload end-of unit tests or assessments, and students complete them at home, remotely, at an allotted time and for a set period of time. The students submit their work via a word document.
Exam.net can be used at high-functionality for free, but also has some premium options available for schools who wish to use the software with multiple classes.