21st Century Assessment Strategies

Twenty-first century assessment differs from traditional assessment strategies because of its focus on formative rather than summative assessment. Formative assessment is the process of using assessment or feedback for the purpose of improving learning and helping students become independent learners.
An essential element of formative assessment or assessment for learning, is that students are provided with timely and ongoing feedback. The goal of providing timely feedback is to reduce the gap between a student’s current level of knowledge and skills and the desired learning goal (Davies, 2005). Consequently, because formative assessment needs to occur frequently and be integrated into the instructional process, it is essential that teachers have the necessary tools to ensure that the assessment and feedback process can take place in an efficient and effective manner without being overly burdensome.


When students are actively engaged in the formative assessment process and have an opportunity to self-assess their work or determine the degree to which they have fulfilled a specific learning goal, their ability to self-regulate their learning and behavior is enhanced (Harlen and Deakin-Crick, 2004). Thus, tools that allow students to participate in the formative assessment process can be effective in enhancing self-regulation, critical reflection and student engagement. These skills are essential to the development of independent, 21st century learners.

Twenty-first century assessment strategies emphasize the importance of capturing learning activities that support higher-order thinking, are authentic in nature and are aligned with real world tasks. These types of tasks often result in learning products that are three dimensional in nature and difficult to capture with simple pen and paper tests. While there are a number of assessment tools that use photographs or videos to document learning, few of these resources allow for the provision of detailed or standards-aligned feedback and assessment.

21st Century Assessment Resources

The following resources can be used to implement a variety of 21st century assessment strategies by using technology to move beyond simply documenting the end result of student learning and instead use the latest innovations to support the learning process by facilitating assessment for learning and assessment as learning.

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