How automated scoring and other technology disrupts the class for good


As teachers – and consumers – modern life is full of algorithms. Supermarkets track your shopping and make you special offers; hotel search engines try to find you the best deal for a week in the Seychelles; and that pair of shoes you browsed online are now following you around the internet, longing to be purchased!

These algorithms can help make life more efficient, save you money and time. Of course, they can also be disruptive (I can’t afford those shoes!). Good technology sits alongside the personal service from the shop or hotel, which makes life special. Education is similar, utilising the benefits of technology in, for example, adaptive and scoring algorithms, but delivering that alongside the care and professionalism of the modern language teacher.

Successful tech starts with confidence

Implementing new technologies in a classroom – like online assessment or automated scoring – can be daunting. Even moving from a print book to an eBook on a tablet or mobile can be a big change and one that comes with new and different challenges. How do you know a student is concentrating on their work and not playing games? How can you monitor their progress? Is the technology going to work?

Sometimes a teacher’s valid concerns can act as a barrier to adopting technology. This is partly a fear of the technology itself, and partly what it can actually provide. But, with confidence in the right technology, teachers can unlock access to new teaching methods and resources. For example, with our free GSE Teacher Toolkit, teachers now have access to GSE/CEFR learning objectives, vocabulary and grammar to plan their lessons 24/7.

Of course, technology is not just a piece of hardware or a bunch of software. Behind the scenes there is a number of different technologies which work to improve the way teachers teach and students learn. For example, adaptive algorithms, automated marking and cloud based solutions are changing what is possible in the classroom altogether. But we all need to understand what they are, how they work and how to integrate them into the classroom.

Automated scoring does not replace the teacher

Online assessment and automated scoring are quite often misunderstood and, so, the trust factor can be lower than expected – despite the time saved, the accuracy and the objective nature of the marker (it’s a computer).

Automated marking can be seen as taking away some of the purpose of being a teacher. When I was a teacher, I might not have enjoyed marking, but I learnt a lot. By working through the students’ exam papers I could often see why they made a mistake, not just that they had made a mistake. This evidence helped me in my professional development and made me develop strategies to help students in areas where they were weak. It also helped me to get to know the students better. In that way, it can be seen as a disruption – to the way we are used to teaching practice and building understanding and rapport with our students. But of course, online assessment can transfer much of that knowledge to teachers too, in the form of score reports. It does not replace the teacher.

Types of assessment

When considering the online assessment of students, there are a least six options:

  • A placement test to determine appropriate level – automated and adapted can be used to improve accuracy.
  • Review and revision activities where a teacher can see instantly if concepts have been grasped – online/homework tools can be used.
  • End of unit or end of week tests where larger chunks of language can be assessed and recycled – can be linked to online products.
  • A more formal progress or exit test where students have to reach a set standard – increasingly automated and adaptive to.
  • High stakes tests which are often scored by automated scoring engines and complex algorithms.

By integrating technology, teachers and students can also enhance these stages of assessment with hints and help in revision exercises such as grammar and vocabulary resources that help students understand key concepts. For example, Gradebooks on Learner Management Systems allow students and teachers to track what they have achieved and what progress they have made.

Teachers have a unique and fantastic insight into the learning process and work hard to develop strong relationships with their students. Technology, such as online assessment, can deepen the learning process and take out some of the hard work for teachers when used in ways that enhance the learning experience.

Share your innovation for a chance to win the Pearson ELT Teacher Award
We’ve launched a new Pearson ELT Teacher Award! Aiming to recognise and celebrate teachers, the Award is open for any English teacher who has developed innovative ways of teaching in their classrooms. You may have used technology or digital tools in unique ways or re-invented traditional tasks. The Award encourages teachers to enter who can show that their ideas are not only unique but have improved learner engagement, motivation and success.

Prizes include all-expenses paid trips to IATEL or TESOL. Deadline for entries is 1st January, 2017 so enter or nominate a teacher today!

In this article