As educators, it is important that we provide a variety of options for students to develop their content area knowledge and skills in ways that meet their interests and needs. When choosing methods and tools to use, it is also important to create opportunities for students to develop social-emotional learning (SEL) skills as they are essential for personal and professional growth.
Our decisions need to focus on helping students by designing assessments and ways for students to show what they have learned while also promoting voice and choice in learning. Depending on the types of methods and tools we use for our assessments, they must help students to identify where they are on their learning journey and provide us with evidence of student learning that we can use to provide feedback and additional resources for our students.
Some questions to consider when deciding on methods or tools can be:
- How can we promote more interactive and collaborative experiences for students?
- Which tools assist us by providing access to real-time feedback?
- What are some ways to promote more student choice in learning?
As educators had to seek new ways to assess students and provide opportunities for students to share what they were learning, ask questions, interact, and feel connected to a classroom community, many sought digital tools. Technology has provided many options for learning and enables educators to find something that meets each student’s needs and interests and sometimes even their comfort level.
It is important to convey to students why we choose a certain method or digital tool for use in our classroom and doing this helps us to stay clearly focused on our purpose. Consider how the method or tool will enhance learning or provide more benefits for students beyond being a way to practice the content or take an assessment. The use of digital tools promotes collaboration, communication, creativity, and many more of the essential skills while also boosting student engagement in learning as they have the power of choice in how to share what they have learned.
Here are five ways for students to demonstrate learning.
- Blogging: Blogging has been effective in my Spanish classes for years. With the digital tools available, it makes it easier for students to have a space to build their writing skills as they share ideas with their teacher and possibly their peers. Having students engage in blog writing also helps to promote the development of digital citizenship skills, especially if they have the opportunity to respond to classmates and provide feedback. One option that has been great to try with my students is Spaces. Using Spaces promotes communication and collaboration between teacher and student or it can be between students and include audio as well.
- Data visualization: Being able to process information and create a representation of what has been learned helps students to better retain what they have learned. For visual learners, using tools to create a concept map or an infographic can help with processing a lot of information. With tools like Canva or Piktochart, students can choose from templates available to help them get started with designing an infographic. These tools and others like them to promote critical thinking skills and creativity as students decide how to best illustrate what they have learned. There are also options for students who prefer to not use technology such as drawing a concept map or creating a sketchnote to capture what has been learned.
- Digital Storytelling: Whether at the beginning of a new unit or at the end, having students create something using one of the many digital tools available will help them to share their learning in authentic and meaningful ways. use of digital storytelling or making a video. My students enjoy using tools that offer multimedia options and libraries full of choices in characters, backgrounds, animations, and more to tell their story. Some of our favorites include Buncee, Book Creator, Genially, and Story Jumper. With several of these, students can even work together to create a presentation or a book to share with classmates.
- Game-based assessments: Encourage practice and be able to provide feedback and more targeted lessons by using some of the digital tools available to do a pulse-check for where students are in the learning process. We can implement some hands-on games through flashcards, gestures, and conversations or leverage some of the game-based learning tools, such as Blooket, Gimkit, Kahoot!, Quizizz, and Quizlet Live! Each of these offers a variety of question types or modes of play that will connect students with the content and provide us with real-time data to help plan our next steps and give meaningful feedback to our students.
- Interactive Lessons: Using tools that promote student engagement through the variety of content and activities that can be added to the lesson helps educators to better understand student progress and enables students to build self-awareness in learning. With tools like Edpuzzle, Formative, Nearpod, and Pear Deck, educators have many options for adding content and activities to help students to build their skills. What I really appreciate about tools like these is that we can provide students with a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning through open-ended responses, polls, multiple-choice questions, quizzes, and more, depending on the tool. Formative was a game changer in our classroom last year because I could use it to create lessons with videos and audio instructions that students could work through at their own pace. I could also use it in class for assessments which enabled me to provide timely feedback directly to students and adjust my lessons as needed. These options enable us to differentiate our instruction while promoting student choice in voice and learning.
These are just some of the many ways that we can have our students demonstrate what they are learning. Whether through technology and the many tools available that facilitate communication, collaboration, and creativity, or using traditional methods, it is important to offer choices to our students. When we can provide options that promote agency in learning, it leads to more meaningful experiences that promote the development of essential skills for the future and empower students through self-driven learning.
Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She is the author of sevens books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU” “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World”, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us,” “Your World Language Classroom: Strategies for In-person and Digital Instruction” and “Things I Wish [..] Knew.” All books are available on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.
I am available for PD sessions in-person and virtually on a variety of topics. Key focus areas are AI, ChatGPT, AR and VR, SEL, and STEM.