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Alternative Assessments for Remote Learning

What about Assessment?

While the academic year moved online due to lockdown, one question in the mind of every student, parent, and teacher is ‘What about assessments as school closures are prolonged?

Teaching went online, on an untested and unprecedented scale. Student assessments are also moving online, with a lot of trial and error and uncertainty for everyone. The global lockdown of education institutions is going to cause major (and likely unequal) interruption in students’ learning.

What can be done to mitigate negativity around online assessment?

To bridge this gap, schools are recommended to create a remote learning environment that is child-centred and flexible.

Remote assessment calls for more student ownership and flexibility in the assessment process, from setting criteria against what to assess, when to assess, to using feedback to feed-forward by teachers to adjust their teaching strategies, and by students to reflect upon their learning strategies.

This calls for a periodic audit of academic processes and fine syncing of pedagogical tools and assessment methods to suit the needs and demands of the current learners into the new reality for the foreseeable future.

Given the evidence of the importance of assessments of learning, current school closures must necessitate the development of alternative assessment tools to deliver the critical feedback of learning in both synchronous and asynchronous environments.

While all types of assessment for learning are important, the need for formative assessments right now is pertinent for teachers and parents-turned-teachers to allow students to have a valued choice in the classroom dynamics, plan and modify students’ learning needs in a clear and constructive way and identify what has been learned to what needs to be learned next.

Effective Strategies for Online Assessment

Creating flexible learning spaces in the assessment requires maturity and self-knowledge of learning style on the part of the teacher.

As teachers, we need to completely understand that the change in the student-teacher interaction needs to be managed in the most innovative, balanced, and comprehensive way possible.

All said and done the ultimate floor test that a teacher needs to take and also pass the day in and day out is what we in the teaching jargon call “Student Engagement”.

To enhance the student involvement and engagement levels, teachers must constantly ponder upon:

  • Are the teachers able to map the comprehensive detailing of each and every child?
  • How can the exams and assessments be conducted remotely?
  • What should be the different options beyond the traditional summative/formative pen and paper assessments??
  • Am I flexible in aligning assessment with pedagogy?

This article explores strategies of alternate assessment tools which are flexible and customizable to be embedded in the remote teaching-learning process, the modelled role of a flexible teacher to provide learners with an autonomy to choose a favourable mode of assessment as well as tools which can be used to achieve them online. These tools can be utilized to effectively plan the continuous and comprehensive evaluations, subject enrichment activities, Holiday Homework assignments concurrently ensuring student engagement and attainment of the intended learning outcomes.

 1. Diagnostic Assessment 

It is essential that at the beginning of the academic session, the teachers have a good idea of the level at which each student is performing. A series of diagnostic tests and ice-breaking sessions based upon popular stories, real-life situations, and activities like Know Me Better, Unlock my words, Know your Child, Treasure Hunt in different subjects can be conducted through virtual face to face group discussions, to identify the competencies, learning achievements and learning gaps of the students.

The need for learning intervention and a personalized learning treatment is also based on a child’s previous achievements, teacher’s feedback, and peer responses.

The class performance, averages, medians, and modes are considered to assign the expected learning outcomes of each child. Based upon the combination of assessments for numeracy, listening, speaking, reading, writing, the core strengths and weaknesses are mapped, and accordingly, the customized plan of action is designed for each student.

 2. Open Text Book Assessments 

OTBAs offer much flexibility at a time when so much of teachers and students life has been upended. It is a well-structured assessment which provides opportunities to test more than the rote memorization. Incorporating questions that focus upon HOTS (Synthesis, Analysis and Evaluation) and digital reference materials like images, video and audio clips allows for more freedom and creativity in constructing an OTBA.

Students can take such exam on their own digital devices at a preset time and from any location.

Teachers can run an exam with a specific start and end time. The data collected is converted into an easy to understand proctor report that specifies the learning progress and flags potentially concerning student behaviour.

 3. Real-Time Chatting Tools facilitating assessments 

These kinds of assessments involve teachers to instruct students studying from home to write their answers to the test questions on pieces of paper. Students should then take images of their completed answer sheets and send them to their teachers via real-time chatting tools, such as We Chat. Teachers grading and comments are then manually added on the photos of the answer sheets by using the image processing tools like Drawing and then be sent back to students. These kinds of assessments help the students to learn at a self-paced rate.

 4. Art Integrated Assessments 

These assessments are designed to help the teacher understand and navigate clear goals for student learning that effectively integrates arts with academic content in the process of facilitating transformational learning in the classroom. For instance, the chapter “Supermarket” provides students with great flexibility in learning from home and helps them develop self-management skills ranging from photography, calligraphy, reading, housework, music, fitness and bodybuilding exercises

 5. Student Discovery Assessments 

During the period of COVID-19, the self-inquiry course offered by teachers encourages students to select the topics based on their personal interests and strength. They can then create products in the formats they prefer, such as podcasts, posters, brochures, videos, songs, or dances to salute the frontline heroes who fight against the novel Coronavirus.

 6. E-Portfolios 

It is one method that can offer more flexibility for students to update the evidence of their development and achievement. A portfolio of work is an excellent example of alternative assessments where a student selects or develops the work they think best depicts their study skills and understanding of concepts. It also serves as a reflective tool for a teacher to understand what lesson plans were effective and which were not.

 7. Interdisciplinary Assessments 

The Interdisciplinary assessments is a student-driven, project-based assessment which associates with the originative classroom pedagogy, through cross-curricular rich performance tasks. It fosters the shift from acquisition of facts, to learning around concepts and enduring understanding.

A myriad of assessments can be designed by the educators on topics involving global issues, SDGs, environmental concerns, real-life implications etc.

A central theme should be chosen by the educators and all the subject-based assessments should be woven around the theme to foster deep learning amongst the students.

Clear guidelines indicating the intended learning objectives, the associated target group and a brief description of the activity and the rubrics for evaluation should be included.

For example, a theme like ‘Life during lockdown’ can be woven across different subjects to help achieve the desired learning outcomes. Students can be assigned a variety of digital tools in different subjects like creative story writing through Haiku or snap story in English, brochure designing with in Social Studies, preparing flashcards with Quizlet based on asymmetrical archaeological site in Mathematics. This interwoven activity helps students realize the larger objective while achieving the intended learning outcomes in each subject.

 8. Flexible Assessments 

The flexible assessments aim at designing activities that allow all students to choose the format of assessment that will enable them to express their ideas in the most equitable way.

It encourages students’ participation in the learning process, thereby promoting self-regulated learning skills. Such assessments can be designed by choosing a specific theme and providing students with an array of digital resources to showcase their learning.

The flexibility in the assessment can be offered in terms of tools used, style of assessment, timeline of submission, content or topic, type of evaluation and feedback. The tools provided by the educators should cater to the preferred learning styles of the students thereby achieving the intended learning outcomes.

For instance, the traditional assessment format in the chapter Percentage consists of all students demonstrating a coherent, well-structured critical argument on the given topic “To study the economic growth trends in India” through a project file.

An alternative format can be that this task may be accomplished using a MS Powerpoint/Sway presentation, a collage for students interested in art and craftwork with the help of Photo Grid Tool, recording a video of TEDx Talk for the orators and project file/scrapbook through Digital Scrap Booking App for the researchers’.

For many students, these kinds of inclusive assessments may prove a less difficult and more suitable way to evidence the kinesthetic learning.

 9. Self Assessments 

Researchers have found that the practice of student self-assessment benefits students in multiple ways. Tasks like dictations, projects, OTBAs, assignments can be self-assessed by students through rubrics/ checklists and marking scheme provided by the teacher.

It helps students become better at regulating and monitoring their own work. There are increases in student self-efficacy and it also empowers students so that they take ownership of their own learning.

Student self-assessment has long been acknowledged as an imperative tool to make student better learners. It not only improves learning outcomes but also equips students to become independent learners.

Once students understand how to assess their current knowledge and the gaps in it, they will have a clearer idea of how they can help themselves. The key to using student self-assessment is to approach it as a formative exercise rather than a summative one.

 10. ICT based/Audio Visual Assessments 

Technology has a vital role to play in effective and efficient assessment of learning. Modern technology offers educators a variety of new tools that can be used in the classroom. Use of ICT in assessment involves the use of digital devices to assist in the construction, delivery, storage or reporting of student assessment tasks, responses, grades or feedback.

Customized applications like Podcast, Get Kahoot, One Note, Sway, Smore, GeoGebra, ICT games, video making etc. can be used to design assessments that allow the learners of different capacities to understand and engage at their own pace.

For instance, Flipgrid elevates text-based discussion forums with teacher and student-constructed videos. Teachers and students can create a grid about a specific topic and encourage peers and even people from around the world to record a short video about the topic.


A good assessment environment raises student’s expectations, encourages them to participate and ensures that no student can fly under the radar.

The focus must always be learner entered which actively engages him or her with the teaching-learning process. It also suggests that each tool of assessment has specific strengths and limitations. Thus, we need to assess students using different activities and tasks, both to make assessment stress free and stimulating for students.

Flipping the side, the inclusion of flexibility and accommodation at the level of a teacher helps in exploiting equivalent ways of demonstrating learning outcomes, raise confidence, and generates love and interest of the students in the given subject. Building flexibility into the process of choosing assessment methods can provide students with the autonomous learning experiences. This innovative approach of control of students over the assessments ultimately influences positively on the motivation, attitudes and grades.

Isn’t this we wish for all our students?

What strategy have you been using and which has worked best for you? Tell us know in the comments section.

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Guiding Light

Written by Dimple Puri

Ms. Dimple Puri is the Head of School at Darbari Lal Foundation World School. A progressive leader, she has had varied experience of over 20 years in the field of education. She is a post graduate in Botany and B.Ed from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar (Punjab). She started her career as a Science teacher and has taught Biology to the senior classes. She had an opportunity to serve as a Headmistress at Ahlcon International School before joining DLF World School and has led a team with an expertise in varied fields of curriculum planning, inclusivity, pedagogy and innovation, value based education, resource management, capacity building of teachers, research based classroom practices, engaging classroom program, SDG based activities and creating flexible learning spaces in the classroom context. She is a British Council School Ambassador and is actively involved with the assignments like assessment and briefings sessions. She has authored several educational articles in prestigious journals. She has also been conferred twice with Life Empowerment Award in the category of Teacher Leader ship in Life skills and Value Education and Inclusive Education for children with special needs by Expressions India in collaboration with CBSE. She has also received the Rex Karamveer award for contribution in the field of social inclusion.. She has also represented on various International and National platforms like PASCH Principals Meet 2017 held in Bangkok. She envisions to create Darbari Lal Foundation World School as a thinking school with a learning centered environment in which students and educators are actively involved as curators and co-constructors of knowledge.


Leave a Reply
  1. An excellent informative article!
    This highly motivating approach to provide the information in form of article, thinking about audience requirement.
    I think it contributes towards various alternatives to easily visualize technical application for academics during lockdown.

  2. A comprehensive article ,answers many questions that are coming up in the current situation in the minds of educators who are doing their best to keep the learning going on.

  3. Excellent article! You have compiled all ways in which the students learning can be assessed. It is very important for teachers to know whether their students have understood what was taught to them. They should also know to self evaluation.
    Thank you so much for this wonderful information.

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