Emerging Practices of Online Assessment

This week we focused on the differences between teacher-centered and learner-centered class structures as well as tools that would promote a learner-centered environment, including performance tasks, interactive inventories, rubrics, blogs, and more authentic assessments.


This is my first experience with creating a blog, although I’ve been intrigued by their use for the classroom.  I am particularly fond of the class scribe concept as well as the “before the test” reflective post.  Both are learner-centered and encourage the student to self-assess.  The class scribe use of the blog guarantees student participation and gives each student the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way.  The “before the test” reflective post could also be used to guide valuable class review time.  A class blog would fit well into my current teaching situation, but I’m not so sure about using a blog in an online course.  “5 Questions about Classroom Blogging” is a VoiceThread which demonstrates another useful tool that could be incorporated into a blog.

Interactive Inventory (a reusable learning object survey)

Did I miss the point or was this just a self-test… a check for understanding?  The most valuable part of this survey was its reusable nature.  Although extremely non-threatening it was a quiz and a review all rolled into one.

Authentic Assessments

“It is better to solve one problem five different ways, than to solve five problems one way.” — George Polya

I have always been interested in problem-solving.  Specifically, how students learn problem-solving techniques and how I can facilitate that growth.   I have incorporated explanations of problem-solving into my classes, but have been looking for a way to expand on that.  While reading about authentic assessments, it occurred to me that I could have my students create a digital problem-solving portfolio, which would hopefully demonstrate their growth as a problem-solver in mathematics and in my class.  I see this beginning with a basic inventory (perhaps a survey would be the tool of choice) and then allowing students to include artifacts, and, more importantly, their reflections on problem-solving throughout the school year.  Some sort of closing inventory/reflection would also be necessary.  I’ve got to do some research to expand on this idea.

Additional Selected Readings/Links

Shawn Cornally’s TEDx talk and Formative Assessment/Feedback/Grading Tool


Why is Assessment Important?

Well, here I am… my first blog and post.  As I reflect on the activities of our first week, I remembered this TED talk by Dan Meyer.  Imagine how rich an online math class could be using Dan’s suggestions and some of the tools we explored this week:  wikis, surveys, and interviews!

My Interview, courtesy of Deb Whiting

Sallie Sandler is an experienced math instructor with some fascinating life experiences.  She has been teaching for many years and is excited about embracing the online venue.  She has visited the Alps in Austria, chaperoned a summer trip to Germany for 45 high school students, and has hiked and climbed all over the US;  the Alps, however, remain her most amazing trip!  Let’s meet Sallie ….

Why have you chosen this course, this university and/or this program?  This is my second course in the online teaching certificate program.  I enjoyed the first course, and hope to complete the certificate within a reasonable amount of time.  I teach in a one-to-one school and the virtual academy offered by the school is lacking (especially in mathematics).  The pressure has been on those teachers who are willing to take technology to the next level to develop hybrid and online courses (to replace our virtual academy).  I’m hoping I’ll be prepared and ready to do so.

Tell me about your background, experiences, and/or skills.  I’ve been a math teacher in the Kutztown Area School District for 23 years.  I’ve taught just about every level of high school math, but I feel at my best teaching Precalculus and Calculus.  I have also developed two “seatless” electives:  Calculus with Mathematica and a Mathematics Literature Circle. Prior to teaching math I was an admissions counselor at Penn State University. I grew up outside of Schuylkill Haven, PA — very, very rural, attended Penn State for both my BS and Master’s degrees, and now live a mere 3 miles from where I grew up. I have 3 brothers & sisters, my parents are both still with us (I am so lucky), and I have 5 nieces and nephews who are now starting to raise their own families.

Sallie … what are “seatless classes?”   “Seatless” classes are classes that I deliver electronically, but I can’t really say they are  “online” courses, because my students in those courses are in the same building as I am and they can seek my face-to-face assistance any time they like.  These electives allow students more scheduling opportunities (our school is very small (approximately 500 students 9-12)).

What do you expect from this course?  The assessment piece of an online teaching environment (particularly with mathematics) remains a mystery to me.  I’m hoping to gain some insight into how I can balance my need to know my students can execute mathematical skills as well as apply and analyze new problem situations using those skills.

What is one thing we might never have guessed about you?  I didn’t start college until I was 23… I worked and did a cross-country camping trip instead!

Who is that special someone, thing or event that you cherish and would never want to give up?  Wow… this is a loaded question.  Special someone:  my husband, Steve (we went to Kindergarten together).  I don’t feel the need to cherish things, but my two English Springer Spaniels are also near and dear to me — they are my children now.

Tools of the Week:  Survey, Interview & Wiki

We completed a brief course survey for our instructor.  The survey served as a non-threatening way to express concerns, doubts, fears about the course, the technology involved, and any other concerns.  This could be used as a screening by the instructor to identify student-specific needs,  as well as a means of certifying that each student can complete an online survey.  The survey is an assessment tool that I believe has merit.  It could be used in a similar situation and also as a means of gathering information about student progress throughout the course.

We each interviewed a classmate and reported on our discussions.   This format gave the instructor more feedback about each student’s comfort level with the technology used in this course.  I like the interview, as it  served as a means of getting online students involved immediately, it allowed us to get to know one another, and it required a degree of commitment from both parties.

We used a wiki (PBworks) to collaborate with classmates on netiquette guidelines.  The wiki could be used again as a certification, and, additionally, the instructor can gain valuable feedback as students manage (or learn to manage) the wiki.  At our school we use googledocs, so the wiki was foreign to me and I was really uncomfortable with the interface.  I’m not exactly sure how I could use a wiki and how I would assess student learning using a wiki in mathematics instruction.  My students certainly use googledocs, but more as a means of communicating ideas and information, not as a tool for which they will be assessed.  How does one assess student use of a wiki?

I believe the survey and interview are better suited to my vision of an online mathematics class.  These are tools that could be used in a variety of ways to gather information about student learning, understanding and progress.

Additional Selected Readings/Links

  1. Mathematics Inside the Black Box:  Assessment for Learning in the Mathematics Classroom. Jeremy Hodgen and Dylan Wiliam. 2006. Available at ww2.youresc.k12.oh.us/cos/math/files/6_inside_the_black-box.pdf
  2. Analyzing Online Discourse to Assess Students’ Thinking. Randall E. Groth. 2008. Available at http://www.nctm.org/publications/article.aspx?id=19429
  3. Five Key Strategies for Effective Formative Assessment.  NCTM Research Brief.  Available at http://www.nctm.org/news/content.aspx?id=11474