What exactly does our assessment measure? I watched my 7 year old son complete an online assessment of his fluency with addition facts last week, and I noticed a few things the assessment measured unintentionally, at least to some degree.

  • It measured his ability to decode the symbols presented (eg. 2 + 10 = __).
  • It measured his ability to find the keys needed to answer the question on the keyboard.
  • It measured his ability to combine the pairs of numbers together to come up with an answer.

The tool used appeared to make an incorrect assumption – that it was measuring fluency with an addition fact exclusively. In fact the feedback it offered to me the parent said exactly that.

However, there were some important things not measured by this online tool.

  • It did not measure his ability to explain his reasoning to others.
  • It did not ask him to show multiple solutions for finding his answer.
  • It did not present a meaningful context, and measure my son’s ability to apply his understanding to that context.
  • It did not check to see if my son had gained any transferable understanding.
  • It did not allow my son to talk to peers about his solution.

When we look at any assessment tool, we should ask ourselves, what is possible to measure with this tool, what may be unintentionally measured with this tool, and most importantly, what is not measured with this tool.

Virtually all digital assessment tools I have looked at are very good at the low-hanging fruit of automated responses to trivial questions, and almost none of them help answer more important questions about student understanding.