Changing the Way We Measure Student Progress

Two elementary students working in a computer lab

“Invisible, integrated assessment, to me, is the future,” Kimberly O’Malley, the senior vice president of school research at Pearson Education, told me. “We can monitor students’ learning day to day in a digital scenario. Ultimately, if we’re successful, the need for, and the activity of, stopping and testing will go away in many cases.”

NPR ran that quote from me in early 2015, and in the months since then, Pearson has made amazing strides in breaking down the barriers between learning and assessments.

Changing the way we assess doesn’t mean learning has to stop when assessment begins. Changing the way we assess does mean we equip teachers with the insights and informational data they need to be able to give feedback to their students.

Teachers need smart data about student learning, but adding more multiple choice tests isn’t the only option, especially in a digital-first world. Information gathered from student engagement with digital learning tools and learning games can offer a new type of assessment. one that can be invisible to the student and helpful to the teacher. Student performance data from learning activities that differ by purpose, timing, skill coverage and student expectation can be summarized in interactive dashboards to allow teachers to gain a holistic view of their student’s academic performance.

The potential to assess by means of “invisible, integrated assessment,” rather than giving a test, is what I’m most excited about. Cutting edge technology and rich digital environments, like games, show us this idea, to assess without tests, could become a reality. These environments are not only engaging for students, but also for teachers, in classrooms nationwide. Teachers are now able to give immediate feedback to their student based on not if they reach an answer by how they reach that answer.

Could there really be a way for teachers to assess student’s learning progress during lessons? Is it a possibility to keep that look of joy and discovery on a student’s face, while still gathering information on their performance and progress?

Pearson released a report on October 29, 2015 that shares innovations we think will change the way we gather insights about student learning.

The information on this site isn’t a policy or research paper. It is an exploration of ideas, prototypes, and innovations in development at Pearson—a tool to drive conversations about the future of assessments and continually improve the systems that support our learners.


Future of assessments


If you are interested in exploring further to see what Pearson is doing regarding assessments, here are links to different webpages:

Full report about balanced assessments

Portal to access free assessment resources

Balanced assessments infographic

When is it best to assess infographic


Kimberly recently wrote a great article that appeared on Noodle, it is titled, 4 Common Types of Tests Teachers Give (and Why)

This blog post was originally published on the Research & Innovation Network blog and was re-posted here with permission.


About the Author
Kimberly O'Malley, Ph.D.

Kimberly O’Malley, Ph.D.

Dr. Kimberly O’Malley brings over 10 years of assessment experience to her current role as Pearson’s Senior Vice President for Research and Development. Prior to joining Pearson in 2003 as a psychometrician, she was director of the Measurement Excellence Initiative, which provided psychometric analysis and consultation services for various constituents of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs Department of Medicine. She served as assistant professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, and taught for eight years in elementary and middle school grades with experience in general and special education settings. Dr. O’Malley’s research expertise is in topics such as student growth models, which measure focus on the performance of individual students; new applications of standard-setting methods; measurement for English Learners; and transitioning assessment systems. Follow@KimberlyOMalle1