Technology, Tests, and the Art of the Essay

Should computers grade essays?

The Common Core is trying to shift the emphasis of education toward more complex forms of thinking. Evaluating more complex thinking, however, requires more complex forms of assessment. I think most people would agree that written essays are better indicators of a students’ understanding than multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubble tests, but they are also more time-consuming and expensive to mark. Multiple choice tests can be fed into a computer and instantly graded, whereas essays require a teacher or professor or test center professional to read and evaluate them. Or maybe they don’t.

edtech, assessment, education

Can computers properly assess essays?

Several studies in recent years, like this one for example, have shown that computers can mark essays with the same accuracy and consistency as humans. In fact, computers are often more consistent than human readers. As states struggle to put together new assessments, without breaking budgets, computerized essay grading holds some obvious attraction. Namely, it’s much cheaper.

But it is also controversial and it’s not hard to imagine why. Computers can’t really measure creativity or originality. And the values placed on certain features, like longer words and more complex phrases, open possibilities for manipulating the scoring system.  To see more on this argument, check out this statement from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

What do you think, dear readers? Do you see any problems with computers grading essays? Leave comments below!

Assess to Impress: Homework, Quizzes, and Personal Attention

Learning assessment is an essential ingredient of education in any form.  Teachers can gauge the progress of their students and identify topics and skills needing more review. Students also learn from the process by challenging themselves and determining their strengths and weaknesses. Assessment can come in several forms, all of which are easily transferable to online venues.

Online Teaching, Assessment

Assess to Impress:Homework, Quizzes, and Personal Attention

Homework is the most common form of assessment, and to maximize the benefit for your students, it is a good idea to put in some work of your own. First, communicate the goals or basic objectives for the homework, so students can see the bigger picture and understand the relevance of the work they are doing. Second, encourage students to pose questions to the class bulletin board rather than sending them to your personal email. In this way, other students, which may have similar questions, can see your responses and join in the discussion.

Once you’ve collected some of these questions and your responses to them, put them together in a single Q&A document and include it for reference with the homework assignment in future classes. Speaking of reference, include links in the homework for students to find further background information and/or illustrative examples of how students have responded to similar homework tasks.

Quizzes are another great form of assessment, and Rukuku plans to introduce a special quiz building feature to its Composer service in coming weeks. For online classes, teachers can take advantage of technology to randomize questions. This will reduce chances of students improperly working together but more importantly, it will allow teachers to offer multiple tests to a single student covering the same material. Students can solidify their understanding in this way and prepare for final tests.

Finally, personal interaction is a great form of assessment. Good old fashioned question and answer sessions help teachers determine how well students understand the class material. At Rukuku, we’ve made a point of emphasizing small, private, online classes, or SPOCs. With smaller class sizes, teachers can build a personal relationship with each student and hopefully get a sense during class time of his or her level of understanding. If a particular student is struggling, consider a private chat, where you can work with him or her on the material. Personal attention goes a long way.