Many 21st century classrooms are equipped with a variety of high-tech resources, from computers to iPads to SMART boards. Along with these new technologies come new methods of assessment. While much of the buzz about technology-enhanced items (TEIs) is focused around the inclusion of such items on next-generation standardized tests, there is not nearly enough attention dedicated to highlighting what a TEI can offer that a multiple-choice question cannot. So just what do these new types of assessment items entail? Here are four characteristics that all well-written technology-enhanced items possess:
1) Promote Critical Thinking Skills
Not only are TEIs more rigorous than their multiple-choice counterparts, they emphasize “doing” rather than “knowing.” Multiple Select and Matrix items ask students select all possible solutions, meaning students must be able to approach a problem from multiple perspectives rather than looking for the one right answer. Make no mistake, content knowledge is still an important focus. However, TEIs have the ability to assess both concept and content mastery by requiring students to produce information and justify their reasoning. TEIs mirror assignments and tasks that students are already exposed to in the classroom so that teachers can focus on opportunities to improve their students’ higher-order thinking skills rather than teach test-taking skills. For example, students may be asked to write their own formula to model a situation using Equation Editor rather than guessing-and-checking data into given options.
2) Inform Stakeholders of Proficiency
Closely connected to the idea of assessing comprehension in addition to knowledge, the complexity of concepts that TEIs can assess gives districts, administrators, and teachers a true picture of what standards students have mastered and what are the areas in which they still need improvement. Analyzing student thinking from multiple-choice questions is difficult, as teachers can only predict why the student picked the correct answer or any one of the distractors. Since TEIs generally require more input and effort from the student—whether it be building a graph in a Drawing item or identifying which sources support various claims in a Matrix item—there is concrete evidence to support whether or not a student has truly demonstrated proficiency. Using TEIs as a means of formative assessment within a classroom can also provide teachers with detailed student data that they can use to better inform their instruction. Overall, results are more reliable and have greater utility than previous methods of assessment.
3) Provide Authentic Student Interaction
TEIs offer the opportunity for students to actively participate in demonstrating mastery of content standards. For example, an English Language Arts item can use Hot Text (or highlightable text) to ask students to determine a sentence from a passage that best represents the main idea. They are no longer limited to choosing from four pre-selected sentences; instead, they can click or highlight any sentence from the selection as they see fit. From a math perspective, utilizing a Drag-and-Drop item type allows students to construct a complete two-column geometric proof by selecting and arranging statements and reasons from an item bank. Not only are TEIs more engaging for students, but they better resemble real-world situations with which students are already familiar.
4) Enhance the Assessment Item Itself
It may seem intuitive, but by far the most important characteristic of a well-written TEI is that the technology selected actually enhances the item’s content. Technology shouldn’t be forcibly integrated into an assessment item for the same reason you shouldn’t force a real-world context into a particular academic concept: it just doesn’t work. Just because you can create a Matching item type to assess a particular standard doesn’t mean that it will provide better access to student thinking than if you were to use traditional assessment techniques. The item type should naturally fit the concept assessed and not the other way around.
Want to learn more? Check out the possibilities of technology-enhanced items.