What is a “modern learning assessment?” Let’s break it down into its component terms:

Modern—creative, effective, and highly relevant. It takes into consideration the most current information on how students learn best today (hi-tech, lo-tech, or no-tech).

Learning—an ongoing process as opposed to summative assessment. It is about how the child learns, not necessarily on the content itself.

Assessment—Must be for the child to take ownership of his or her own progress. At the same time, it gives the teacher information on redirection for the next lesson.

Insights on Designing a Modern Learning Assessment

How does one design the perfect modern learning assessment? We visited Vanessa Bianchi’s blog The Evolving Educator for examples.

Ms. Bianchi wrote a great article entitled Assessment in a Modern Learning Context. She provides a great analogy of Blockbuster and Netflix. Blockbuster made money by charging late fees to their customers (like a ‘pen and paper timed test’ where points are taken away for wrong answers) as opposed to Netflix, who made money via buy-in by members (as in trusting students to access what they need when they need it). Blockbuster is no longer around.


In good modern learning assessment:

  • students gain instant feedback;
  • they are not penalized for mistakes, and;
  • they are given a chance to apply changes as needed.

This type of assessment lends well to making the thinking process visible. While pen-and-paper quizzes have their place, it is the Inquiry-based learning approach that drives modern assessment to showcase that students are “pushing beyond rote knowledge.”

For one project, Ms. Bianchi used 3 programs: Trello, Evernote and Google Drive. The goal was to track progress in real time and allow students to critique each other’s work. Each of these online devices are collaborative, and lend themselves to sharing work and creating valuable discussion on projects at hand.

Even More Assessment Innovation

Here are some other examples Vanessa provided in her article:

  • Paired Problem Solving—“Students are paired and given a series of problems. The two students are given specific roles that switch with each problem: Problem Solver and Listener. The problem solver reads the problem aloud and talks through the solution to the problem. The listener follows all of the problem solver’s steps and catches any errors that occur.”
  • Gallery Walk—Students walk throughout the classroom observing a gallery of student work or examples of images from study material for a particular project. “They work together in small groups to share ideas and respond to meaningful questions, documents, images, problem-solving situations or texts.” 
  • Math Congress—Student groups or pairs prepare by posting their solution and decide what to share with the rest of the class. While students are writing out their solutions, we as teachers need to be aware of students’ use of different ideas. Acting as a mediatory in a congress, the teacher asks meaningful questions to spark discussion such as:
    • What is similar and what is different between the different solutions presented
    • Why or why doesn’t this strategy work?
    • Keys to making the discussion valuable: students should not be expected to defend their thoughts, but rather learn to be comfortable in communicating their thoughts and understanding.
  • Twitter—Using Twitter, teachers can easily and quickly assess students’ understanding. Have them tweet what they learned, perhaps using it as an exit slip. 
  • QR CodesQuick response codes are being used more frequently. Perhaps you’ve seen them at your local museum where you could simply scan the pattern with your cell phone and you will be brought to an outside link that has more information about the work of art. Bianchi says, “ In my classroom we used QR Codes to create an Audit Trail of our understanding of Fractions. Each code provides a glimpse at a child’s questions, wonderings or discoveries around fractions. It is a quick and easy way to quiz what a child is retaining and to bring others in on the discussion.”

Kudos to Bianchi for getting this modern learning assessment list together.

What Else Do We Consider?

What remains is to pinpoint what it is in each of these assessments that makes it “perfect” (or nearly).

1. If you use technology, it should not get in the way of the assessment. If kids are stuck on how to use something, then results could be skewed. Imagine yourself going to vote for a political candidate and not having clear instructions on how to use the ballot. Carefully vet tech tools and look for clear directions. Work the process yourself several times, and get some “guinea pigs” to use it before going live.


Take heart that once students learn something, you can use it in the future again with less learning curve. Also, many tech solutions require adequate supervision on their use. Things like student emails and profile information must be cleared with parents and, again, supervised closely.

2. Students need to be able to receive instant and relevant feedback. Tech can sometimes do this quicker for a teacher skilled in its use. Other less-tech solutions that provide instant feedback by their peers: kids working in pairs, gallery walks, etc.

3. Allows kids to determine what’s next for themselves. Any homework that the child deems necessary has a better chance of being done than an arbitrary declaration of assignment by the teacher. If a baseball player is having trouble with their batting, they’re not going to go home and focus all their time on catching. They know what they need to work on.


4. Allow data to be collected in real time; least hassle for the teacher. But data is not collected for a grade. It is a “doctor’s prescription” for improvement.

5. What keys people into doing good assessment is what we call “Heartwork.” By taking stake in each other’s work as a team, assessment becomes helpful feedback between students that genuinely want their peers to do well. This can be achieved through supervised collaboration as well as mindfulness practices on tolerance and acceptance of differing views.

What do you think constitutes the perfect modern learning assessment?

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