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Teacher-Created Assessments During Remote Learning

Recognizing the difficulties of administering tests during remote learning, teachers are adopting new assessment strategies.

As the pandemic impacts standardized assessments and leads to a rise of remote proctors for students taking off-site exams, many have started to question if assessment and grading protocols need to be reconsidered altogether, especially during this second pandemic-impacted school year.

These are inherently high-stakes testing issues, given that they are coupled with reports of K-12 students failing their remote classes at record rates, and solutions are not blatantly evident. Still, best practices have emerged along with an evolving set of resources.

Best Practices for Assessments During Remote Learning 

Administering a traditional teacher-created test that requires a single right answer for each question is proving difficult in remote learning environments. Ensuring students aren’t finding the answers online or getting help from friends or family is nearly impossible. As a result, many teachers are developing new assessment strategies. I’ve included a list of resources at the end of this article with information on how teachers are rethinking their assessments for remote learning, but here’s a quick summary of some of those revised approaches:
  1. Forego assessments with answers that can be easily Googled. Teachers are replacing multiple choice, true/false and fill-in-the-blank tests, and instead are using assessments that require greater critical thinking, creativity, and other higher level skills that focus more on opinion and processes and less on simple fact-based responses.

  2. Be clear on what you’re assessing and why. When creating assessments, teachers are deciding if they want to check on students’ understanding or their knowledge. Using assessments primarily as a ranking tool to assign grades is proving less important when teachers’ interactions with their students are limited and so many kids are struggling with remote instruction.

  3. Use projects and demonstrations to assess student learning. In lieu of standard assessments, teachers are working with students to develop projects that can demonstrate their understanding and knowledge in meaningful ways. And since all students are working on computers, having them record themselves explaining their work while solving a math problem or demonstrating their understanding of a social studies topic is easily done.

  4. Use one-on-one conferences as assessments. Scheduling virtual conferences with individual students, teachers are assessing what their students know and are able to do.

  5. Let students retake assessments, or redo the questions they got wrong. Rather than just giving students a score and moving on, teachers are giving them the opportunity to fix their mistakes and improve their work. A key concept of mastery learning, this is also proving to be a good exam adaptation for remote learning where so many students are falling behind with little hope of catching up.

  6. Require that students leave their computer cameras on during assessments. Using a Google Meets session for each student, combined with the quiz and lock screen features in Google Forms, teachers are able to administer and monitor assessments with a whole class while minimizing cheating.

Formative and Summative Assessments

To address the issue of an increased number of students failing classes, teachers are also making greater use of daily or weekly formative assessments to help them better keep track of their students’ learning and progress. Though admittedly harder in online classrooms, teachers are finding ways to get more regular readouts from their students to determine if they’re keeping up. Formative assessments are about learning, not about grading.

By comparison, summative assessments evaluate what a student has learned over a longer period of time. And though these assessments have their value, and are often used to determine a student’s grade in a course, they don’t provide teachers with the timely feedback needed to address their students’ gaps in learning. And teachers are finding that using them without adequate formative inputs is a contributing factor to students’ failing grades.

Assessing students in remote learning situations is not easy. But many of the new assessment strategies teachers are adopting during the pandemic are proving valuable. And teachers are reporting they will continue using them once they return to their classrooms and face-to-face instruction.

Additional Resources for Assessments During Remote Learning


Kipp Bentley is a senior fellow with the Center for Digital Education. He has been a teacher, a librarian, and a district-level educational technology director. He currently writes and consults from Santa Fe, New Mexico.