Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Technology Workflow of An Assessment Task

This week I am giving some guest bloggers the opportunity to share their ideas with a larger audience. This is a guest post from David Wees. 

In our work with New Visions for Public Schools, we use rich mathematical tasks such as the ones from the Mathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS) as common assessments for teachers to use as formative assessment tasks. This allows teachers to collect information on their student’s performance and at the same time have evidence of their thinking prompted by the mathematics of the task.

The available MARS tasks do not always align with our unit perfectly and so I occasionally create tasks similar in structure to the MARS tasks to fill the gaps.

Here is the workflow:
1. I start by creating a draft of the assessment task in Google Drive, which allows me to share the task and get feedback from my colleagues, both in person and online. Here is a sample task that I created that because of the feedback, we decided not to use.

2. I download a copy of the assessment as a PDF, and open it in Adobe Photoshop to shrink and crop the task so that each page is exactly the right size for use as a watermark.

3. Using Datacations’ Data Driven Classroom (DDC), I create an exam template, which our data specialist Erik Laby downloads. Full disclosure: We have a grant from DELL that funds our use of DDC.

4. Once Erik has a generic template and an exam template for each teacher’s students downloaded, he runs a script in Adobe Acrobat Professional which uses the cropped assessment tasks and overlays them onto the exam templates as watermarks. Here is a sample of what the first page of a task looks like after processing.

The bubbles on the right are where teachers record their scoring decisions, and where DDC collects the data from the task after the scanned version is uploaded.

5. Our mathematics instructional specialists then email the PDF files to the teachers they support, and those teachers decide when to give the tasks to their students, and then using a rubric shared by us in Google Drive, score the tasks. The teachers then scan the task, and upload it back to DDC, where if everything goes smoothly, the data from the task is recorded and automatically analyzed by DDC. A side-benefit of this process is that we end up with access to scanned copies of student work.

One challenge we found is that if the task is not printed exactly correctly, or if in the scanning process the pages become misaligned too much, then DDC has a hard time reading the data from the scans, and as a result, we have to correct these errors manually.

6. Teachers then have access to data reports in DDC, which include error analysis, item analysis, and an overall summary, and can then use the data to inform their instruction. This is another area where we are exploring using Google Spreadsheets to give teachers a more detailed and unit-specific analysis.

7. Erik also exports the data back into Google Drive, where he uses it to create data dashboards which contain analyses (such as unit by unit comparisons or pre-post task comparisons) not available in DDC. One requirement here is that we use Google Apps for Education for storing our data since it meets the requirements of FERPA and the free version of Google Drive does not.

8. Finally, in department-based inquiry teams at each school, teachers choose a few target students and study their work on the assessment task in detail. This allows them to collaborate to find evidence of student thinking, analyze this evidence, and decide on instructional next steps for these students that can further inform their instruction above and beyond what is possible with just the aggregate information alone.

This workflow allows us to meet some of the goals of our project, which are to;
  • promote the use of rich mathematical tasks, 
  • collect and study evidence of student thinking in collaboration, 
  • use evidence collected on these assessments to help inform instructional decisions.

If you are interested about learning more about this project, please contact David Wees at New Visions using the email address: dwees [at] newvisions [dot] org.

David Wees is the formative assessment specialist for New Visions for Public Schools. He has taught in four different countries, and has his masters degree in educational technology from UBC. On his blog, he shares his thinking on education, mathematics, and educational technology. He can also be found on Twitter at @davidwees.

Erik joined New Visions in 2012 as a data researcher. He brings experience in educational program evaluation, curriculum, educational media and assessment materials. Erik holds a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently pursuing an M.A. in educational psychology from Hunter College.