Administering Maths assessments

In my previous blog I wrote about the importance of making informed choices about maths assessments you use at your school.

This is all part of the important process to develop the assessment literacy of teachers.

In this post, I want to look at the ‘how’ of administering the assessments, because this forms an important part of the assessments we select.

As you are well aware, there are a number of test modes out there, interviews, paper and pen and online are the ‘Big 3’ (they are not really called that by anyone, but I thought it sounded good!).

There are advantages and disadvantages for each mode. Let’s look at them one at a time:


Interviews provide amazing insights for teachers. There is nothing like sitting down one on one with a student while you hear and watch them think! BUT interviews can be really time consuming- and time means money for schools. Schools must put money into hiring replacement teachers to cover classes while we complete the interviews. For teachers, administering these means time away from your class (often at critical times like the beginning of the year!). So, while interviews provide the most rich data, there is a costly downside.

2.Paper and Pen

Paper and Pen tests are easy to administer, BUT they can place a reading load on students, take time to mark and depending on the quality of the items, may not even give an accurate indication of student understanding. For example, multiple choice items may mean students are simply ‘guessing’ the correct answers, providing teachers with inaccurate information. Paper and Pen tests are particularly challenging for Foundation and Year 1 students and are not something I recommend for these year levels.

3.Online Tests

Online tests are the ‘new kid on the block’. The technology associated with this mode has dramatically improved in even the last five years- and will continue to do so. The obvious advantage of this mode is the time it saves teachers marking. On the flipside, online marking takes teachers out of the assessment process, this is something that really concerns me. If you are interested, I have written a research paper about just this issue

Online assessments also raise practical challenges for schools. To ensure the validity of these tests, schools must have a technical infrastructure robust enough to support the testing platform. Very few schools have consistent, lightening speed wifi and the latest computers. This causes a significant hinderance to this mode of assessment- the slow move to online NAPLAN perfectly illustrates the challenges faced in many schools.

So, as you can see there are affordances and constraints for each mode of assessment. It is important for us to be aware and take these into consideration when we are selecting assessments.

For example, there may be an awesome online testing platform which teachers LOVE because it easily ‘spits out’ results, BUT we need to look at the ‘big picture’. Is this platform the best choice for us? Do we have the technology to ensure its success? Is it giving us the data we need?

All of these are important issues we as teachers and leaders need to consider and discuss with our school leadership team.

Want to learn more from Dr Ange? Click here to find out more about her “Assessing Place Value in Years 3-6” Mini Course. 


Want to be notified when Dr Ange releases a new blog? Sign up below!