Selecting and Using the Appropriate Digital Assessment Tools for Feedback

Students receive timely, personalized, and actionable feedback as teachers utilize digital assessment tools
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About This Strategy

Timely, personalized, and actionable feedback is one of the most effective influences on learning. Digital assessment tools empower teachers to move beyond giving grades to providing personalized assessment and feedback that inform both the student and the teacher of where the student is and where he/she needs to be. Today's tools allow teachers to hear from every student at one time, saving classroom time. The tools provide meaningful data that learners and educators can use to plan for a targeted pathway to mastery. By using formative assessments to identify and target what students need most in their learning, teachers can more successfully ensure every student is provided with learning opportunities that support their individual growth. In this strategy, teachers can learn how to utilize tools to provide both on the spot and delayed feedback as well as empower students to give and receive peer feedback.

Implementation Steps

  1. Design a learning experience to meet specific identified learning targets and key competencies.

    • Utilize the Using Learning Targets to Guide Instruction strategy in the BetterLesson Lab for implementation steps to designing purposeful daily instruction.

    • Utilize the I Can Statements strategy in the BetterLesson Lab to break down and explain learning targets, essential questions, or state standards/outcomes into specific action statements that students can understand.

  2. Identify when and how to incorporate feedback or assessment.  Consider problem difficulty, learning outcome, desired retention length, and learner prior knowledge to determine whether on-the-spot or delayed feedback is more appropriate. For help with which digital tools allow for on-the-spot feedback and which are better for delayed feedback, use the text search tool in the Digital Tools for Assessment and Feedback resource.

    • On-the-spot feedback is most effective when the goal of learning is to boost student performance during skill acquisition, such as when learners may completely lack the basic knowledge necessary to answer a question or solve a problem.

      • The ability for teachers to give instant, or near instant, personalized feedback is accelerated with digital tools that respond to student answers. 

      • For more information about on-the-spot feedback, explore Ben Seigel's On the Spot Feedback Strategy or Jessica Anderson's Instant Feedback strategy in the resource section below.

    • Although teachers are almost always told to shorten the feedback loop, providing delayed feedback is effective when the goal of learning is long-term retention or transfer. Through purposely delayed feedback, students can benefit through struggling with the problem and/or correcting their own errors.

      • Digital tools that allow for reflection, annotation, and commenting are especially helpful in allowing for the productive struggle that makes delayed feedback so effective. Additionally, may of the digital tools that give on the spot feedback can also be set to hide answers, allowing for delayed feedback.

      • For more information about when it is appropriate to delay feedback, see the Not So Fast: The Hidden Value of Delaying Educational Feedback resource below.

  3. Choose a digital learning tool from the Digital Tools for Assessment and Feedback site in the resources section below. Note that Digital Tools for Assessment and Feedback will allow for filtering by category and text search. Identify a tool that works with the available devices, is accessible by all students, and will provide a way to assess and/or provide feedback for the competency or learning target.
  4. Utilize the Launching a New Digital Solution in Your Classroom strategy in the BetterLesson Lab to plan for launch of the tool if you have never used it with your students.

  5. Determine when would be the most appropriate time for assessment. Will you give a pre-test, assess after a mini-lesson or practice, or at the end of class? Consider when use of the devices will be least disruptive, how you will guide the students to the digital solution, and whether you will want students to receive immediate or delayed feedback.

  6. Facilitate the implementation of the digital assessment solution for formative assessment and/or feedback. Consider using the tool for the first time in a non-threatening, low-stakes manner. Perhaps ask questions with obvious answers or questions about the classroom or nearest holiday.

  7. Reflect on (or have your students reflect on) the results from the formative assessment/feedback and design (or have your students design) actionable steps for moving forward.

Teachers Providing Feedback to Students with Digital Tools

Effective feedback is timely, personalized, and actionable. When providing feedback to students, teachers should meet these three criteria in a positive way with a coaching mindset that will lead to revision and/or growth. Using technology to provide feedback accelerates feedback loops and empowers teachers to easily personalize actionable feedback.

Implementation steps:

  1. Follow the implementation steps above to identify and choose a digital assessment tool that is appropriate for your purpose, or have students share early drafts of writing or products online.

  2. Access the Digital Tools for Assessment and Feedback resource below, and choose categories or search for text that match your needs.

    • For providing instant feedback, filter for the quiz/poll and game categories. Most of these tools have settings that indicate to students if their answers are correct or incorrect. Google Forms will not only allow students to verify their answers instantly, but it will also direct students to a resource for help.  Access the How to Use Google Forms for Feedback resource below to learn more about this process.

    • For providing delayed feedback, filter for the feedback/reflection or LMS category. These tools allow teachers to leave annotations, video or audio comments, etc. on digital student work. View the Example Video Review in the resources below to see one teacher providing digital video feedback with a screencasting tool such as Screencastify.

  3. Save time when leaving digital feedback by creating a digital comment or tutorial bank. Many LMS tools allow teachers to create a comment bank within the tool.  Watch the How to Create and Use a Comment Bank in Google Classroom video in the resources below to learn how to use Google Classroom's Comment Bank. 

    • Even if your preferred tool does not allow for an internal comment bank, you can usually link in tutorial resources.  Create or obtain instructional video, animations, documents, slide decks, etc. Consult the Creating Original or Using Existing Videos for Flipped Environments strategy below for help with creating instructional videos.

Peer Feedback with Digital Tools

Collaboration is one of the most sought-after skills in today's workforce. In order to collaborate effectively, innovators and problem-solvers must give and receive feedback. Utilizing digital tools for peer feedback not only improves student learning, but it builds skills that students will need going forward.

Implementation Steps

  1. Follow the implementation steps above to identify and choose a digital assessment tool that is appropriate for your purpose. 

  2. Access the Digital Tools for Assessment and Feedback resource below, and choose the Feedback/Reflection category. The tools in this category allow students to give and receive peer feedback.

  3. Before utilizing the digital tool, introduce peer feedback protocols using the Giving and Receiving Peer Feedback strategy or the Warm and Cool Feedback lessons from the resources section below. Consider modeling the peer feedback process by giving the students an opportunity to use your chosen protocol to give you feedback on a piece of work that you create.

  4. After the peer feedback is given, provide a way for students to self-reflect on the feedback that they received and determine next steps. Consult the Self-Reflection strategy in the BetterLesson Lab for guidance in facilitating student self-reflection.

Feedback in a Learning Management System (LMS)

Because of the lack of physical presence, personalized feedback is even more important in an LMS than in a face-to-face setting. Teachers should leverage feedback not only to provide learning direction, but also to add a layer of warmth and give the teacher a personal presence in the LMS.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Be a learner. Explore documentation for the LMS that you use, contact other users, and visit the BetterLesson Lab to see what specific tools and or workflows others are using with your LMS to give feedback. Helpful resources for commonly used LMSs are linked in the resources section below.

    • 4 Modalities of Google Feedback

    • Using Google Classroom to give feedback before students are done

    • Fantastic Feedback in Google Classroom

    • Audio Feedback in Canvas

    • Annotated Feedback in Canvas

    • Peer Review in Canvas

  2. Tell students how, when, and where they will receive online feedback. Develop a feedback routine or system that students can follow, and create a page in your course documenting your system. When feedback has been posted, post an announcement explaining how to access it.

  3. Utilize badges, emojis or other visual feedback to convey a positive nuance in your feedback.

  4. Use the LMS for global feedback as well. If many students are struggling with a common issue, post feedback for the whole class as a video.

  5. Follow the implementation steps in the Peer Feedback with Digital Tools section above and utilize discussion boards or external tools to allow students to give and receive peer feedback.

  6. Give feedback regularly, but do not comment on every student posting. Much like in face-to-face class discussions, let the conversation develop and give students a chance to participate before jumping in.

EL Modifications

Effective feedback is beneficial for all students, but it is crucial to ensuring success for students being challenged to process language and master new content.

Providing the following may help your ELs be successful with digital assessment solutions:

  • Vocabulary list of terms with images for navigating the solution.

  • Video clips, audio clips, images, and infographics in assessment questions as possible.

  • Captioning for video or visual media in the student's original language. Utilize Google Translate for digital translations.

  • Provide feedback sentence stems such as those in the Warm and Cool Feedback resource below to assist students with formulating feedback to peers.

Special Education Modifications

Test new digital solutions as a student with an eye/ear to how students with disabilities will access digital tools for assessment and feedback. 

  • Just as you might give a modified printed test to students with disabilities, you might create a modified digital assessment for students with disabilities. Most digital tools allow for copying assessments so that you do not have to start from scratch.

  • When using images, video, or audio, consider how students with visual or auditory disabilities will access the media. Provide captions for video media and text copies of audio files. Refer to the resource below for help with adding your own subtitles & closed captions to YouTube videos.

  • Provide feedback sentence stems such as those in the Warm and Cool Feedback resource below to assist students with formulating feedback to peers.

  • Utilize online tools and/or browser add-ins to add additional accessibility features or reduce distractions to help students stay on focus. These tools are effective with Google Chrome:

    • AdBlock Plus

    • SpeakIt

    • ChromeVox

    • Read&Write

  • Consider how competitive assessment tools such as Kahoot! will impact students with disabilities. 

    • Change the settings to extend the answer time to 90 seconds or more for students who receive extra time on assessments.

    • Form teams with roles. Have a student read the question and answers before the team can choose their answer.

    • Break up complex questions into smaller, more digestible parts.

Questions to Consider

  • How will this tool allow me to assess and/or provide feedback for the competency or learning target?

  • Is the tool you would like to use approved by your school and is it compatible with your students' devices?

  • Is the tool appropriate for my grade level and is it accessible by all students?

  • What student data does the tool collect?

  • Does the tool require that students have accounts? How do the students sign into or access the tool?

  • How does the tool track data? Will the tool allow students to set goals and track their own progress to goals?

Coach Tips

Tracie Cain
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

There will never be extra time for peer feedback unless you deliberately set aside precious moments for it. Consider the benefits to the students, and determine when and how often you will expect your students to give and receive feedback. You may find that time set aside for peer feedback reduces time needed for grading in the long run.

On larger projects, provide multiple opportunities for feedback, especially early on.  Getting feedback at the end of the process, after I have already spilled my blood on a product, is not useful. Give students a reason to want feedback; help them experience the benefits.

As students learn the feedback protocol, you might try a feedback request board. I have had students add a sticky note to the board to signal that they would like to meet with a peer to receive feedback on a specific area of need.

Tech Tools

Common Sense Education Search Tool

  • Common Sense Education provides a searchable, teacher-reviewed collection of digital tools. The collection includes information about pricing, accessibility, targeted grade levels and subject areas.

  • When searching for or deciding to use a digital assessment or feedback tool, it is helpful to learn from other teachers' experience with the tool. 

Plickers

  • Plickers is a tech tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices. Students are handed cards with a different symbol on each side. Each side represents one out of 4 possible answers. The teachers scans the group with a smartphone or a tablet and instantly get data on a specific question.

  • This is the go-to assessment tool for classrooms without student devices.

Related Lessons

  • Explore the Digital Assessment Tools lesson by ninth grade science BetterLesson Master Teacher Jessican Anderson included in the resources below to see how Jessica utilizes digital tools for assessment in her classroom.

  • Explore the Poll Everywhere lesson by fifth grade math BetterLesson Master Teacher Daniel Utset-Guerrero included in the resources below to see how Daniel utilizes Poll Everywhere for formative assessment in his classroom.

  • Explore the Video Self-Assessment lesson by fifth grade ELA BetterLesson Master Teacher Johanna Paraiso included in the resources below to see to use video for student self-assessment.