3 Reasons to Go Digital for Formative Assessment

Assessment can be beneficial to teachers for a number of reasons. It allows teachers to determine what their students already know, how they have progressed through a curriculum, and how successfully they learned a topic taught in class.

As we mentioned in a previous blog post, there are three types of assessment:

  • Diagnostic assessment determines baseline knowledge and skills for purposes of appropriate placement within an academic program.
  • Summative assessment provides information about which learning goals have or have not been achieved at the end of each unit of study.
  • In between these measures, dynamic, ongoing formative assessment monitors student progress. 

Dynamic formative assessment assesses the learning process itself and offers educators critical, real-time data to inform their actions. Online learning environments are particularly suited to dynamic formative assessment. Here are three reasons why.

1. Student Actions Can Be Recorded and Analyzed

With digital formative assessment, student interactions with online learning tasks and activities can be captured, stored, and analyzed for patterns of learning behavior and learning needs. A variety of metrics, such as time on task and engagement level with a task, can be analyzed in addition to proficiency to gather a better understanding of how a student is doing. Students can also be continuously informed about their performance with badges and rewards as well as any metrics that are available to them. These can help motivate students to continue moving along in a program as they gain “points.”

2. Teachers Receive Instantaneous Updates About Student Progress

The real-time nature of data capture and reporting with digital tools can offer teachers up-to-the-minute updates. They may know the effectiveness of the morning lesson by lunchtime so that they might reteach some parts in the afternoon or the very next morning. Readjustment of the instruction can take place much faster without having to wait for quiz results.

Digital tools can also save teachers time since they don’t have to manually grade assignments or quizzes. While analyzing online data can require a learning curve and extra time, online tools have the ability to automatically highlight key areas of need or pinpoint students who are struggling and send alerts.

3. Educators Can Tailor Coursework to Meet Individual Students’ Needs

Lastly, learning goals and content can be customized to each child with adaptive online programs, providing a richer formative assessment experience for students that meets students where they are and supplying better data about how students are doing for teachers. Online programs can also make real-time adjustments in students’ learning paths by analyzing student activity and responding to it with more challenging tasks or perhaps less challenging ones if the student is struggling. This amplifies the teacher impact and helps to differentiate instruction for every student.

Personalizing Instruction With Formative Assessments

Waggle is one digital tool that offers students a safe, positive environment with scaffolded instruction, in-the-moment feedback, and personalized pathways to practice. Waggle utilizes Knewton’s learning recommendation engine which continuously adapts as students work in Waggle and identifies each student’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning patterns. As students practice in Waggle, Knewton’s engine analyzes all of their activity and progress, such as active time on task, how many attempts were made, and how long a student retains material. Then it determines the next best item for each student to work on to address weaknesses and foster optimal learning progress. 


Learn more about how Waggle, the award-winning personalized learning program, addresses formative assessment for all students in Grades 2–8.

The information in this blog post originated from a white paper by Marcella L. Bullmaster-Day, EdD.