Tag Archives: assessment

Data, Feedback, and Standards Based Grading: It Is Your Destiny

Your gradebook says a lot about the way you teach. After all, it is the measuring stick to which your students will compare themselves for an entire year. Gradebooks should provide much more than a single letter grade, and this article will look at two ways that could improve your gradebook which in turn could improve your instruction.

Part One: Collecting data on the activities students spend the most time completing

What if your gradebook could show you which activities a student was likely to complete or likely to avoid? Knowing what your students spend most of their time doing could help you design better activities in class – activities that students actually want to spend time and energy to complete. Below is an example of how a gradebook could look if you could tag all of your assignments by TYPE. By looking at the data, you can figure out that this student really likes to keep a journal but dislikes creating posters and flashcards. Giving students choices in how they complete their work keeps them more engaged in their learning. Often they are more willing to spend more time completing tasks because they are enjoying them.


If the student is willing to take practice tests over and over which leads to improved performance, then it makes sense to try to create a larger bank of questions for your students to practice with. If other students really enjoy (and learn from) discussing topics online with their peers, then it makes sense to create more discussion boards whenever they are appropriate for the topic.

Part Two: Standards-Based Grading (SBG)

Okay, maybe you aren’t really in a “give the students a choice” kind of mood at the moment. You know what your students need to complete, and they are willing to do it. Excellent! Here’s a different question for you. What if your gradebook could show each student’s progress towards mastering each of the learning standards within your course? Instead of just seeing an A or B, what if your gradebook could show you where your students are really excelling and where they are falling behind? That’s called a Standards-Based Gradebook (SBG).  This photo below is modified to look like one example of data in a Standards-Based Gradebook. The numbers to the right show a student’s progress towards mastering each of the standards, with 100 being the highest they can achieve. The standards listed come from the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts <http://www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/ELA_Standards.pdf>.


When data is aligned to multiple standards instead of a single letter grade it explains the progress a student is making towards mastering the reading and language skills of a course. In the example above, the student shows a high level of skill in determining the key ideas of what he or she reads, but a very low level of skill in trying to integrate the ideas of multiple authors into one coherent theme. This standards-based data provides much more detail as to how the student is performing in class which helps the teacher to inform and modify his or her teaching, and it provides the student (and the parents) with information as to which skills are advanced and which need additional work.

Part Three: Destiny (and how video games could teach us something about providing data and feedback)

The idea for this article came from a combination of two things that are taking up a great deal of my time: helping teachers create a Standards-Based Gradebook, and playing hours and hours of the video game Destiny. Video games provide constant feedback to the player which can lead to greater engagement in playing the game, more time playing the game, and better results when playing the game. If teachers could provide the same type of instantaneous, high-level feedback that video games provide then we could really help our students learn. The photo below is an actual screenshot from Destiny. The data listed in the image includes:

  1. Overall skill level of 27 (top right)
  2. Total time spent playing the game (over 86 hours)
  3. The number of times the player spent in each type of game mode (He played 129 “Control” games which are 5-10 minute mini-games, but only played 5 “Raids” which are 30-60 minute adventures that require a great deal of skill and teamwork)

Destiny Hunter Stats


The more data we, as teachers, can gather regarding student performance, the more informed we can become in our instructional practices. Providing a variety of data related to the TYPES of academic activities students complete and/ or the level of mastery students demonstrate towards the learning standards will only help teachers to teach better which in turn will help students to learn more. Video games are effective in providing data and feedback which teachers could adapt to fit their classrooms and their gradebooks to help make learning more meaningful and engaging.

Top Recommendations For Creating Digital Age Assessments

Why do we assess students?

Teachers should assess students on a regular basis.  But why? According to the National Education Technology Plan, “Most of the assessment done in schools today is after the fact and designed to indicate only whether students have learned. Little is done to assess students’ thinking during learning so we can help them learn better. ” Assessing students on a regular basis and using that data to change the way we instruct our students will lead to academic improvements.

Is there anything else pointing towards the need for more assessments? Yes. Standard #2d of the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) states that teachers should, “provide students with multiple and varied formative and summative assessments aligned with content and technology standards, and use resulting data to inform learning and teaching.” A paper-based assessment is no longer good enough. A variety of digital-based, authentic assessments are needed today.

How often should we assess?

According to Project Red‘s study of 997 schools where new technology implementations were occurring, online assessments should occur at least weekly. That’s one assessment per subject per week at a minimum.

One easy and effective way to assess on a daily basis is to use Exit Slips.  At the end of each class, ask your students to answer 1-3 questions to help you gauge what they learned that day. The results let you know how to begin class the next day. If you taught synonyms and antonyms for 40 minutes, but a majority of students still don’t know the difference between the two, then you should circle back on the topic the next day to correct their misconceptions. Waiting until an end-of-unit test will be too late.

 Top recommendations for creating digital age assessments

We have several suggestions for creating digital assessments. Two guidelines we used when coming up with these recommendations are that the resources should be free (or low cost) and they should work across multiple platforms (PCs, tablets, iPads, Chromebooks, cell phones). Students should be able to just jump in and start taking the assessment in less than 30 seconds, so all of the choices do not require an additional username and password.

  1. space raceSocrative (free) is by far the most widely used student response system in our school district. It has the basic question types (T/F, Multiple Choice, Short Answer) and works on all platforms. Two places where it stands out is the Space Race game feature and the Exit Ticket function.
  2. Kahoot (free) is very easy to use and has a clean look to it. Where it stands out is that users earn more points based on how quickly they respond. It’s a competitive review system that provides the teacher with formative data.
  3. quizlet (2)Quizlet (free and paid) is essentially a supercharged online flash card system. Teachers AND students can create a set of flash cards to quiz others. Where it stands out is that it offers several games that provide users with a score. Scatter and Space Race are very popular games. Teachers will have students practice a set of flash cards until they get a certain score (4,000 pts) or time (under 25 seconds), and then each student takes a screen shot of their qualifying result and submits it to their teacher.
  4. Schoology (free and paid versions) is an LMS that offers six types of questions and has excellent analytic tools. The benefit is that students who are already using Schoology have no additional learning curve – the quizzes are available from within the courses they are already a part of. The limitation with Schoology is that you cannot use it for assessment on its own; it works effectively when you are using it as your LMS.
  5. Nearpod (free and paid versions) is a presentation and assessment tool all in one. It is unique in that whatever is on your screen is also what is on your students’ screens. When you move from one slide to another, the slide changes on all of your students’ screens, too. Students cannot get ahead or fall behind – they are exactly where you want them to be. The teacher builds in assessment questions throughout the presentation to get feedback throughout the lesson. This is not an assessment-only piece of software; it is used in conjunction with a teacher-directed presentation. A huge drawback is the cost. The free version gives you a small number of presentations; if you are going to use Nearpod regularly you will need to pay the $120 annual fee.
  6. Poll Everywhere (free and paid versions) is a fairly basic polling system that lets your class respond to multiple-choice questions. It does not allow for individual scoring or statistics, but it does allow for quick data collection on your class as a whole.  There is a limit of just 40 users per poll unless you pay the $50 annual fee.
  7. Google Forms (free) look like an online survey. They are easy to fill out, but they are not visually appealing. Google Forms offer many features to collect and analyze data. The drawback is delivering your assessment to your students. Students need the exact URL (or Google-shortened URL) to take the assessment, and you have to know a little bit about spreadsheets to be able to analyze the data. If you’re a competent Google user go ahead and try Google Forms, but they are not as quick and easy to create and deliver as the other ones listed above.


The National Education Technology Plan summarizes our need for better assessment best: “There is a difference between using assessments to determine what students have learned for grading and accountability purposes (summative uses) and using assessments to diagnose and modify the conditions of learning and instruction (formative uses). Both uses are important, but the latter can improve student learning in the moment (Black and Wiliam 1998). “


Assessment: Measure What Matters <https://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010/assessment-measure-what-matters>

National Education Technology Plan <https://www.ed.gov/sites/default/files/netp2010-execsumm.pdf>

National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers <http://www.iste.org/docs/pdfs/20-14_ISTE_Standards-T_PDF.pdf>

Tech Tuesday: Quizlet, Google Forms, and Formative Checks <http://glenbardsouthtech.blogspot.com/2013/12/tech-tuesday-quizlet-google-forms-and.html>