Digital Assessment: Do's and Don'ts

As assessment technology proliferates, it is becoming increasingly important to decide when and when not to use them.  Following are my top 10 do's and don'ts for digital testing, informed by my 30+ years as a school administrator.

Assessment is a critical piece of the instructional puzzle. Unfortunately, it has often gotten a bad name because of high stakes testing that focuses on an assessment as a single “snapshot in time”. During the past several years the assessment pendulum has begun to swing back toward multiple measures. Coupled with the increased availability of data analysis and digital assessment tools that help make data available quickly enough for teachers to adjust their instruction, there is an increased focus on how assessment can finally guide and improve instruction in the classroom.

However, as much as digital assessment can help guide instruction, if we are being realistic, we must acknowledge that digital assessment is not always the answer! Digital assessment is only one piece to the overall assessment puzzle. 

To help guide your digital assessment discussion here is a short list of "Do's and Don’ts" when it comes to digital assessment.


Don't use a digital assessment when...
  • your students are too young to read and write in analog form. We worry and fret about giving too much screen time too soon, for too long. If they’re struggling to read maybe they aren’t ready for digital assessment.
  • you want to do a performance assessment. Performance is usually something task oriented, something tactile, 3-dimensional and in the real world. Technology can be part of the performance but performance assessment typically asks for students to actually produce a product or completing a product.
  • it is the only tool being used to diagnose a student’s reading level. Sometimes you have to hear them reading to determine where their problems and strengths are. If it is part of multiple measures that’s great but if it’s all you’re doing with students you’ll never get a true picture of the “student as reader.”
  • you want to measure how students get along or how they demonstrate teamwork. Good old fashioned observation needs to be used in these cases. Not everything in education can easily be converted into a right or wrong answer and not everything you evaluate can be easily converted to a letter or a number!
doDo use assessment when...
  • you want to use data to drive your instruction. Digital assessment tools are great at giving near instantaneous results that can help you understand your students’ strengths and weaknesses. It is also great in helping to determine trends in what your students are learning as a group.
  • you are assessing standards in your curriculum and you want to determine mastery. Digital assessments can be very useful in these circumstances and this information can lead to better understanding of what is working in the curriculum and what may need revision.
  • the assessment is embedded with the instructional practice in your classroom and will help both student and teacher.
  • you are giving Common Formative Assessment. Digital Assessment tools are ideal for this type of assessment. When common formative assessment are applied with fidelity to a grade level or content area the results can be powerful!
  • you want to benchmark students at intervals throughout the year and you want to be able to track and compare results. 
  • you have enough devices so that giving the digital assessment does disrupt everything else in your instructional plan. Digital assessment relies on access and equity. Without enough devices digital assessment can be disruptive by using up valuable instructional time.

This is just a start. If you are considering adopting a digital assessment platform, consider creating your own list for staff to use as a guide throughout the year. If you create a good list, feel free to leave a link in the comments or tag us on Twitter @OnCourseK12. We can all learn more when we work together!

assessment-webinar-ctaReady to upgrade your digital assessment platform? Watch this webinar on OnCourse Assessment.

If you are working on common digital assessments for your district, check out the webinar above to see how the OnCourse network of school districts are working to make testing time as impactful as possible.