Thanks to Camilla Erskine for this article. 

What is interactive assessment?

Interactive assessments are those that are completed and automatically marked on a computer or mobile device. There are various types of interactive tests, ranging from ready-made tests – either specifically for digital use or those that have been adapted from existing paper-based tests – to tailor-made tests that are created from a bank of questions. Such customised tests can be as short or long as the teacher wishes, focusing on a particular topic or style of question, or they may be designed to assess across topics that have been taught over a period of time, for example over the last half term. Some interactive tests can also be created by children themselves – it depends on the system being used. Interactive assessments are most widely used in mathematics as the subject generally lends itself well to automatic marking, but they are also available for English and other subjects as well as to assess skills (e.g. cognitive reasoning).

In what ways can interactive assessments be used?

Interactive assessments can be used in a variety of ways, for example for in-class assessment such as termly or regular attainment checks throughout the year and homework. In these cases, the teacher will usually assign a particular test or create one from a bank of questions. It’s worth noting that even though the test is taken on-screen, children can use a pen and paper for their workings and notes. Only the answer they enter is marked, but this doesn’t mean that all the thinking has to be done in the child’s head. Interactive tests can also be used for revision and on-going practice, which is especially valuable in the lead up to tests and exams, where instant feedback is particularly helpful as it quickly highlights questions that have been answered incorrectly and can therefore help to focus precious revision time. A range of interactive quizzes and tests is available for schools and parents to purchase, both as part of curriculum resources and as standalone items.

Another use of interactive assessments is to identify or confirm whether a child has specific learning difficulties. In such cases, the tests are often administered and the results analysed in collaboration with the SENCo.

What are the benefits for children?

Digital tests add variety to the assessment mix and can help to engage some children who struggle with conventional printed tests because they enjoy using technology. Where provided by the system, instant feedback is beneficial because it enables the child to see immediately those questions they have answered correctly and those that they got wrong. Depending on the test used, they might also be given the correct answer so that they can understand where they went wrong in their thinking or calculations. Many interactive tests are accompanied by digital markbooks that record each child’s scores over time, which enables them to see their on-going progress. Through this children can develop ownership of their learning and think about targets for next steps in their learning.

How can teachers benefit from using interactive assessments?

Interactive assessments save the teacher’s time because they don’t need to either write or mark the tests. This benefit is significant because marking is a major commitment when it comes to whole-class assessment in particular. Automatic marking can save the teacher hours per test. It also has the benefit of being consistent and reliable, offering peace of mind as well as saving teachers’ time moderating across classes in the same school.

With interactive assessments, all the teacher needs to do is assign a particular test to a child, group of children or the whole class, which can be done at the click of a button. Customisable digital tests allow the teacher to control what’s assessed, for example by selecting questions on a particular topic or set of topics to reflect recent teaching, or to revisit prior learning before starting to teach a new topic. Another benefit is that teachers have instant access to the children’s scores and test records, which provides them with real-time information about which children have taken an assessment and when (e.g. if assigned for homework), how they have done and if there are any areas in which children are struggling. This instant feedback makes the process of evaluating children’s strengths and weaknesses very efficient, freeing up the teacher to focus on how they use the information to inform their teaching. Many interactive assessment systems come with a choice of ready-made reports that can be selected for individual children, groups or the whole class. In this way, the teacher can choose the report(s) which best fit their needs, whether they are communicating with the child, their parent, the subject co-ordinator, colleagues in another department or another interested person.

By Camilla Erskine, Consultant Publisher specialising in education and assessment