With real-time assessments, we can help teachers identify how each child learns, where he needs improvement and which learning strategies suit him best.  New online tools are also helping teachers aggregate and display this data for the student and his parents, so that they can be more engaged in personalizing that student’s lesson plans and monitoring his progress.

In a traditional classroom, an experienced teacher can review a student’s math quiz and see where he’s having trouble. Over the course of weeks of homework, quizzes and tests, the teacher comes to understand how her student approaches the topic.  She can assign additional reading on a history topic, or practice exercises to drive home a particular math problem.  Looking at the class as a whole, she can choose how to pace her class and which strategies to emphasize to the group.  Looking across an entire course or semester, she can weigh the comparative value of different lesson plans, even different textbooks.

Experienced teachers do this well, every day.  But even the most experienced teacher can benefit from online tools that grade student work automatically, track a student’s progress over time, and incorporate those prior scores into recommendations for future assignments.  By making it easier to track student progress, online tools give the teacher more precise information about the needs of each student in her classroom and allow her to break the class into groups of students with similar needs.

Perhaps just as important, these online tools help teachers communicate their findings to students and their parents.  With some of the more promising student “dashboards,” a father can literally see his daughter’s journey from basic math concepts, to how she applies those concepts to story problems, to how she does when she’s tested on more advanced concepts she isn’t meant to be studying until next year.  These dashboards work well for two reasons. First, they’re intuitive, communicating a student’s progress over multiple tests and, in some cases, across multiple classes, in a way that parents can understand.  Second, these dashboards are also objective, putting real data behind what might otherwise be an ambiguous conversation about a student’s study habits, or the amount of time she needs to put towards a particular subject.