Tag Archive for differentiation

Uses of Technology to Enhance Formative Assessment and Differentiated Instruction


Along with our Academic Dean Richard Kassissieh (@Kassissieh, KassBlog), I co-authored an article on the use of technology in formative assessment and differentiation. The article appears in the Fall 2014 edition of Curriculum in Context, the journal of the Washington State chapter of ASCD. The article describes a variety of ways in which our faculty are using formative assessment strategies to gather and analyze student performance as well as giving students opportunities to engage with content and skills at a variety of levels.

New Schoology Features – (Almost) Adaptive Assessment for Your Curriculum?

Schoology's new Mastery panel (help.schoology.com)

Adaptive testing is one of the largest buzz-worthy trends in Ed Tech right now– the ISTE conference was absolutely awash in companies selling adaptive testing engines, aligned with Common Core and complete with packaged curriculum materials. It’s easy to see the appeal of adaptive testing: students are assessed on a complete package of learning objectives, and any areas of struggle or difficulty are identified and targeted. Students work at a level which is appropriate for them in rigor and complexity, and can move ahead or given additional reinforcement if necessary. Unfortunately, adaptive testing systems are incredibly complex, which makes them very hard to modify to reflect each individual teacher’s course and curriculum.

Schoology has released a handful of new features to Enterprise customers over the summer which, when used together, form a very powerful formative assessment environment. By using these tools, it’s possible to build quizzes which offer students opportunities to practice skills and content as needed, and report data back to teachers in a very granular and performance-oriented manner. For classes or schools which use standards- or learning objectives-based grading and reporting, the backwards design process of writing curriculum and assessment to match those objectives fits perfectly into this new package. The combination of Learning Objectives, Question Banks with Random Questions and the Mastery reporting panel allows teachers to generate randomized practice opportunities targeted to individual or multiple performance goals, and analyze each for diagnostic data on each student’s performance. Each of these tools requires some setup to accomplish this, so let’s dive in.

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Do We Have Different Paths “Up?”

Hugh MacLeod - @gapingvoid
Hugh MacLeod - @gapingvoid

Hugh MacLeod – @gapingvoid

Saw this picture in Hugh MacLeod’s Cartoon of the Day this morning. This seems self-evident: there are many paths to a fulfilling, successful and meaningful process or project. At the same time, there are basic traps of failure that we see our students fall in repeatedly, or certain behaviors that we know “lead down.” Is it true, though, that “All paths up are different” in our classrooms? How many different paths can a student have to success in your classroom? It seems to me that this question has many facets:

  • Does your grading policy allow different paths to success, or does the goal of accumulating points force students into certain tracks and processes?
  • Do your assessments allow students to take different paths, whether through exploring different content or by demonstrating their learning in different methods?
  • Are all students differentiated so that they are each working on their necessary strengths, weaknesses and goals?
  • MacLeod says in his accompanying message that “It’s far harder to copy success than to copy failure.” How do we use models, rubrics and exemplars in ways that encourage finding unique paths up instead of trying to “copy success?”

What do you think? Please comment below!