A practical guide to digital formative assessment

Our two-year project is drawing to a close, but we have gathered our experiences and recommendations in a practical guide to digital formative assessment with OneNote in higher education. If you want to find out more about what we did to enhance formative assessment practices in our courses, and how we used OneNote to support those practices, then do check out our Guide. The guide is very practical in nature and full of tips that we have gathered on the bases of our experiences. You can access the guide here:

A Practical Guide to formative assessment with OneNote in higher education

Institutional support is important

What institutional factors have been significant for project implementation?

Institutional support is a crucial factor for successful implementation of any educational innovation. The significant role that digitalization plays in the institution’s policy documents makes projects such as these valued and welcomed at the institutional level. What structures need to be in place to support the staff in implementing new digital practices?  IT support seems crucial, especially on matters that relate to local network and services.  Clearer routines, a good overview of the services offered, a help/troubleshooting center for implementation of digital tools in teaching and an arena for sharing the best-practice examples and tips are certainly assets to any institution that has digitalization as its aim.

When it comes to assessment practices, any implementation of innovation in requires support from the leadership and the administrative services. The current project is being conducted at the time when teacher education is undergoing significant changes, moving to a 5-year Master education. As a consequence of this reform, the institution has encouraged revision of the course plans and reassessment of examination practices which opens up for innovations of this kind. Still, many obstacles arise along the way. As this project focuses on formative assessment, we have had a considerable amount of freedom in implementing different ways of assessing student learning throughout the course.  However, the project has also heavily centered on obligatory assignments that the students must complete in the course of the term, which are in the end included in the final assessment portfolio. Obligatory coursework and the final examinations are subject to various regulations at the national and the institutional level. Navigating through relevant guidelines and policy documents can at times been challenging and the institutions might want to consider how these could be made more accessible to the teaching staff. It is also important to ensure that the guidelines are flexible enough and formulated in a way that opens up for different assessment practices and encourages the teaching staff to explore new ways of assessing student learning. Efforts to standardize assessment and evaluation practices across campuses and institutions, though potentially having many positive aspects, can at the same time be felt as obstacles to innovation. Based on our experiences so far, we cannot but conclude that determination, effort, and good-will  is needed from all the parties involved to successfully implement new assessment practices that relate to exams and/or obligatory coursework. At the same time, we have learned that there are many small changes that one can make in one’s own teaching to promote classroom assessment practices that will hopefully improve student learning.

What is the project about?

The project aims at developing a pedagogical model for implementing formative assessment in higher education by using the digital application OneNote for Classroom. Research shows that formative assessment can have a powerful effect on student learning (Hattie 2012). However, the results of the 2015 national student survey in Norway (Studiebarometer) reveal that students are generally dissatisfied with assessment practices and the quality/amount of feedback. An increased focus on formative assessment has therefore the potential of improving both student achievement and the overall course satisfaction. The current project  implements formative assessment by making use of learning portfolios as a pedagogical tool and explores the affordances provided by OneNote for Classroom as a digital tool. The aim is to design a flexible pedagogical model that other institutions and study programs can draw on and adapt to their needs and to share the experiences gained while implementing these innovations.