The past two years have ushered in a remarkable transformation in schools, giving educators the opportunity to rethink the tools they use. Now, as they grapple with fresh challenges in meeting students’ learning needs, they are seeking more clarity on individual progress on an ongoing basis.
Evolution in the content and context of classroom assessments can help bridge gaps and improve instruction by accurately and specifically identifying what learning has taken place and what concepts need more support. Recognizing the need for a new approach to address disparities, Pearson recently acquired Navvy Education, which offers a diagnostic classroom assessment system with a unique design that pinpoints learning gaps at a more nuanced level than has been generally possible.
Here’s what you need to know about how this innovative tool can improve your classroom assessment strategy.
Rethinking the typical assessment model
For years, assessments presented one type of feedback, using a method that would rank order students on general ability rather than identifying concepts students already grasped and those they needed help to learn.
“Navvy’s goal is to help better navigate the learning process by providing teachers and students with an accurate, detailed, and real-time picture of student progress,” says Dr. Laine Bradshaw, who founded Navvy in 2017. She first realized the need for a better option while helping the Georgia Department of Education roll out a math curriculum. “Over and over, we heard teachers express a desire for more useful assessments that would be relevant for informing their classroom instruction.”
That was the impetus behind Navvy, a new type of assessment that measures concepts in smaller grain sizes rather than by testing general ability. Its success hinges on better feedback loops with results that are accurate, actionable, and immediate. “Feedback from many other systems might include one or two of these characteristics, but it’s the combination of all three that make Navvy powerful,” Bradshaw explains.
Best practices for effective formative assessment processes
To effectively inform instruction, assessment tools must give accurate information about what students understand in an actionable and immediate way. Here is how to identify assessments that are able to support an effective formative assessment process:
1. Consists of questions that yield more insightful feedback
There is a phrase in the computer world, “Garbage in, garbage out,” which means you’ll only get the correct data out when you have the right inputs. That’s why Pearson and Navvy have focused their attention on improving traditional question design to get the detail needed to reinforce personalized learning. “You can’t tailor instruction to specific needs until you accurately identify them,” Bradshaw points out.
Assessments should check understanding and then furnish results that offer a clear path to the additional instructional support each student needs. The cycle repeats to ensure students have competencies in various skills before moving on. “Most educators believe in the power of personalized learning, but it only works if you have an assessment that supplies useful data that you can use to take action in the classroom,” Bradshaw says.
2. Measures state standards
All schools operate under learning objectives at the district and state level. Navvy designed its assessments to align with the needs of each school to monitor and guide meeting these objectives for each student. Through its technical merit, Navvy gives reliable results that help students progress to the learning targets they ultimately must reach.
3. Addresses day-to-day instruction
The most effective assessments are shorter in length but are given more frequently and supported by clear actions to take. Bradshaw believes in assessment data with a smaller “grain size” focus because it allows educators to target learning to a specific concept, whether through customized one-to-one instruction or differentiated student groups for those struggling with the same idea. “Getting feedback that says a student is in the 57th percentile in geometry isn’t actionable because the grain size is too big,” Bradshaw says. “Instead, an assessment result should be detailed enough that a teacher can customize a lesson or small set of lessons to address a specific need, such as measuring angles.”
4. Furthers growth mindset
A better assessment tool will provide feedback that fosters a healthy learning mindset. “Results should be messaged so the student doesn't feel ‘evaluated’ per se, but realizes the assessment and results are a way to check their understanding of a concept to help guide successful learning—that’s why we named it Navvy. It’s a navigational tool to help guide each student on their learning journey,” Bradshaw says.
5. Provides more accurate feedback loops
Think of the assessment like your watch, Bradshaw says. You don’t want to “kind of” know what time it is, just like you don’t want to “sort of” understand what your students know. The check-ins have to be accurate to assure teachers they are using the limited time and resources of the classroom in the best way possible.
“Actionable data is important, but if the data are telling the wrong story, then the actions don't actually help the child,” Bradshaw says, underscoring that the key is to align psychometric methods with the grain size of feedback you want to give.
Using more effective classroom assessments as part of an integrated assessment strategy
Classroom assessments must fit within a holistic assessment strategy that includes interim and summative assessments. Yet while interim and summative assessments are vital measurement components, they can’t adequately inform the day-to-day learning environment that will help boost achievement and close gaps.
“Navvy’s design is really a paradigm shift in how assessments are made,” Bradshaw says. “We're using a completely different psychometric approach than state assessment tools that rank order students on overall ability. The aim is to help kids learn by looking at the specific learning objectives they personally have learned, not focus on their progress compared to other students.”
Not only do these results help instructors create more powerful individualized learning, but they are also more intuitive for parents and caregivers to grasp. “Rather than showing where their child is relative to other students, we focus on communicating competencies the child has gained,” Bradshaw says.
Are you ready for a better option for your classroom assessments? Click here to learn more about Pearson’s classroom assessment solution Navvy and how its novel design and advanced psychometrics enable it to provide clear, standards-level feedback.