By Lindsey Conner and Julia Crawford.

In today’s digital age, technology has become an indispensable part of the educational landscape. Among the areas impacted by technological advancements is assessment practices in schools. Traditional methods of assessment, while valuable, often fall short in capturing the complexity of student learning and providing timely, targeted feedback for growth. However, with the advent of innovative technological tools and platforms, educators now have unprecedented opportunities to enhance the assessment process, promote personalised learning experiences, and foster student success. 

Internationally and here in New Zealand, pen-and-paper tests are increasingly being supplemented, or even replaced, by a range of technological tools, apps, and online assessment systems. For example, NZQA is moving towards offering all external assessments as digital. NZQA currently run digital external exams for some end-of-year exams, Common Assessment Tasks or Activities and for the Literacy and Numeracy co-requisite assessments. 

As educators navigate the complexities of modern education, understanding the potential of technological tools in assessment becomes paramount. By harnessing the power of technology thoughtfully and ethically, educators can create dynamic assessment systems that not only measure student learning but also promote engagement, personalisation, and equitable opportunities for academic growth. 

Data-driven decision making

Technology allows educators to collect a vast amount of data on student performance, ranging from traditional assessments like tests and quizzes to more nuanced measures such as engagement levels and learning behaviours within digital learning platforms. Analysing this data using advanced algorithms and analytics tools can provide valuable insights into student progress, learning patterns, and areas for improvement. By leveraging these insights, educators can make informed decisions about instructional strategies, curriculum development, and individualised interventions to support student learning effectively. This applies not only to comparative information of summative outcomes, but also progressions data.  Digital data capture can also be used to generate graphic representations of clustered outcomes, providing really quick visual evaluation of the outcomes.

Formative assessment practices

Technology enables educators to implement formative assessment practices during lessons. Digital tools such as online polls, surveys, and interactive quizzes allow teachers to gauge student understanding in real-time and adjust instruction, including further questioning or feedback, accordingly. By integrating formative assessment into everyday learning experiences, teachers can identify misconceptions early, provide timely feedback, and guide students towards deeper understanding. 

The digital assessment tools e-asTTle and Progressive Achievement Tests (PATs) support teachers ability to respond to individual student’s needs by providing an Individual Learning Pathway or Individual report. Questioning the data supports teachers to make overall judgments, decide what the next learning focus should be and incorporate this into planning. 

A challenge related to this is our ability to interrogate data effectively, to “unpick it” sufficiently so that we can apply or use the data to dig even deeper as to what questions to ask students about their learning. Too often the assessment data is taken at face value and not used to probe deeper into what misconceptions or misunderstandings students have, that might need to be redressed. Afterall, how assessment information is understood and used enables teachers to make inferences about learning and achievement (Black & Wiliam, 2018). 

Differentiated instruction

Online learning systems that have built-in assessment tools, have the capability to adapt to individual student needs, potentially when designed well, can offer personalised learning paths that are differentiated depending on prior knowledge or skills. Adaptive learning platforms, such as Khan Academy and DreamBox Learning amongst many others, use algorithms to analyse students’ responses and tailor subsequent questions based on their performance. This personalised approach can ensure that each student receives targeted instruction, potentially probe gaps in their understanding and promote achievement through consolidation and practice. These have their place and there is some evidence to indicate how adaptive learning and assessment systems have positive effects on student learning across a range of learning areas (Southgate et al. 2019). However, when you want to ensure that learners have mastered specific content, concepts, skills and dispositions and ensure consistency of assessment across groups of learners, personalised learning paths would have to align directly with the outcomes for specific learning areas. There is a challenge here. 

Alternatively assessing the same specific content for all students poses a challenge for personalised learning. For example, inquiry-based and project-based learning approaches allow students to follow their passions (for increasing motivation), and therefore naturally generate learning outcomes that may not have been pre-determined by content-based assessment tasks. However, given inquiry and project-based learning support students to gain skills deemed necessary for their futures (Conner, 2021), we should not disband them, but rather consider how they are used to grow students’ capabilities for creative and critical thinking, collaboration and communication skills (Scolar, 2018). In the desire for consistency and reporting progress, we must not lose sight of the importance of developing capabilities that are developed through inquiry and problem-based learning. 

Adaptive learning platforms can provide instant and automatic feedback. Instead of waiting days or weeks for assessment results, students receive immediate feedback on their performance. This timely feedback allows students to identify areas for improvement promptly, enabling more iterative learning that potentially supports students to reflect and take some agency, given there is ongoing support in the learning environment and is “what we do here” i.e. use the information effectively to help students understand what they know and can do and what they need to work on.  

Enhanced collaboration and communication

Technological tools can promote collaboration and communication among students and teachers. Online platforms like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams facilitate sharing of assignments, feedback, and resources. Collaborative assessment tasks, such as group projects conducted via these platforms, can enhance teamwork and the development of communication skills while also allowing for efficient evaluation by teachers.  

Digital communication tools such as email, messaging apps, and video conferencing allow educators to communicate with students and parents, share assessment results, and provide ongoing support and guidance. By fostering a collaborative learning environment, technology can promote active engagement, social interaction, and a sense of community within the classroom (Southgate et al, 2019). 

A challenge arises if we only want to measure what each student has learnt individually. This should not be conflated with the advantages of students working together, where there can be group outcomes. There are decades of research evidence about the benefits of students collaborating and learning from each other and this also applies to collaborating on assessment tasks digitally.  

Providing feedback to each other using clear criteria supports students to understand what’s required and helps them to be more assessment capable. In fact, peer review is a capability in itself, much desired in academic arenas, for successful entrepreneurs and in STEM careers (Conner, 2021). Through evaluating each other’s work (yes digitally), students are more likely to become constructively critical and more adept at determining the level at which their contribution has met requirements.  

Preparation for the digital age

Incorporating technological assessment tools into education prepares students for the demands of the digital age. As technology continues to advance, digital literacy and proficiency are becoming essential skills for success in workplaces. By engaging with various digital tools and platforms for assessment purposes, students can develop critical digital skills that are transferable to future academic and professional endeavours. 

However, as learners become more adept at using technologies, they also become acutely aware of the affordances and uses of AI for quick wins. It is very important that authenticity of student work is verified. In their review for the Australian government, Southgate et al. (2019) undertook a literature review of AI uses in education. As the use of AI is still emerging in schools and there are challenges with authoring tools such as ChatGPT, Southgate and her collaborators concluded that: 

  1. Educators need to develop foundational knowledge of learning about and with AI in order to empower students to thrive in an AI world;  
  2. Learning about and with AI will require teachers to understand the economic and social changes that the technology will bring as well as its potential educational uses and ethical considerations; and  
  3. There is much work to be done around the ethical, legal and governance frameworks to ensure that AI technology is used for good, and that transparent processes are in place to ensure accountability at classroom, school community and school system levels. 

       Accessibility and inclusivity

      Technology has the potential to make assessments more accessible to diverse learners, including those with disabilities. Features such as text-to-speech, speech-to-text, and customisable font sizes cater to students with visual or auditory impairments. Additionally, online assessment platforms often offer accommodations such as extended time limits or alternative formats, ensuring that assessments are inclusive and equitable for all students.  

      As with all technologically enabled assessment, access and useability by the learner is crucial. Technological glitches must be circumvented quickly to reduce assessment anxiety and stress. Using technologies routinely in learning environments, can help reduce this markedly and students’ comfort and confidence improves with increased frequency of use. 

      In the 2022 NCEA Te Reo Matatini me te Pāngarau | Literacy and Numeracy Pilot Evaluation equitable access to digital devices and digital-related skills were identified as key barriers to equitability for the literacy and numeracy assessment. Difficulties with student device access contributed to logistical issues for schools trying to administer the assessments and it was also identified that students who do not have their own device will very likely have lower levels of digital skills.

      Ethical considerations and equity

      While technology offers numerous benefits for assessment practices, it also raises important ethical considerations and challenges, particularly regarding data privacy, equity, and access. Educators must ensure that technological tools are used responsibly, transparently, and in ways that prioritise students’ well-being and rights. Additionally, efforts should be made to address the digital divide and ensure equitable access to technology and internet connectivity for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status or geographic location. 



      There are many effective ways to integrate technological tools, apps, and online systems to support assessment in schools. These innovations offer many benefits, from innovative digital assessment tasks, data-driven decision making to personalised learning paths with embedded real-time feedback. The use of digital assessments can also promote collaboration and inclusivity, equipping students with essential digital skills for their futures. These tools can also support the advancement of assessment capability- both for teachers to understand what the data represents, as they plan for next steps, and to support students to develop agency towards advancing their learning. As technology continues to evolve, its role in assessment will likely continue to expand, ideally enriching the educational experiences for students and educators alike. However, we must also be mindful of the challenges and ethical implications, especially of the use of AI for generating content that may then be assessed. 

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      Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2018). Classroom assessment and pedagogy. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 25(6), 551-575. https://doi.org/10.1080/0969594X.2018.1441807 

      Conner, L. (2021). Integrating STEM in Higher education: addressing global issues. Routledge. 

      Scoular, C. (2018). Equipping teachers with tools to assess and teach general capabilities. Presented at the Research Conference 2018, Australian Council for Educational Research, Sydney. 

       Southgate, E., Blackmore, K., Pieschl, S., Grimes, S., McGuire, J. & Smithers, K. (2019). Artificial intelligence and emerging technologies (virtual, augmented and mixed reality) in schools: A research report. Newcastle: University of Newcastle, Australia.