Ideas on assessing student’s digital work

Teaching English as a foreign language (unfortunately) has often been about assessing and testing students a lot. A majority of tests at many schools are written ones. I personally think students should have lots of learning time, not of being taught to the test. A few high stake tests could do. In addition it is often a bit challenging and time consuming to design a really good, valid, reliable and fair written test (it is for sure easier to mark it then ;-).

But doesn’t the ongoing change in teaching, the rising number of settings and learning scenarios, relying on technology underneath or reflecting digital concepts and ideas, indicate that we also need some changes? Changes when it comes to the assessment of student’s work? Alternative ideas? Testing scenarios that fit to the tasks and the learning in, let’s say, 1:1-classes, where every students owns a mobile device for her learning? Written tests could hardly do.

I tried a few ideas over the years and here is one that me and some colleagues, who have already worked with, found quite useful. It helped me to assess student’s digital work in projects, where the main objective was to create a multimedia dossier. The focus could easily be changed. Let students create a movie, a radio play with a slide show…. My students had worked with those dossiers and the ideas behind it before, but I didn’t mark their work. As a starting point they use a (basic) reading text. Of course you could also use a film clip, a picture…. They are free to use digital tools and apps as they wish to display their competence.

Here’s a sample task outline:

Main objective:

Use the text ‘Jamaica – geography, people and culture’ as a starting point to produce a multimedia dossier about Jamaica.

Ideas to start with:

1. Attack the text using the 5-step-reading method.

2. Script a text for an audio file (minimum length 60 seconds)and record it.

3. Your multimedia dossier should (at least) contain text(s), pictures and your audio recording.

4. Mind copyright issues.

At the end of the lesson you have to hand in:

– a document (paper or digital) showing your steps taken before, while and after reading (Task 1)

– a document with your audio script

– a final multimedia dossier (main objective)

Include your name on each document.

Time frame: 50 minutes

I had different ‘trials’ with students aged between 13 and 16 (years 7, 8 and 9), also varying between individual, pair or group work, which meant slightly changing the task design.

To assess the handed in dossiers I decided to use an analytic scale. Of course students were aware and the ideas and requirements behind the scale were discussed well before the testing.