Using Assessment to Guide Instructional Planning for Distance Learners

This paper suggests that certain types of assessment can create a foundation for effective lesson planning at a distance.

Leslie I. Petty
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Project IDEAL
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

Assessment is a key component of all educational programs; used properly it can yield valuable information for teachers, students and administrators. Assessment can be used for various purposes, including placing students into appropriate classes, gauging student progress, and measuring overall educational gains for accountability purposes. This working paper examines how the second of these – assessment to gauge student progress – can be used in distance education programs for adult basic learners with a particular focus on using assessment to guide instructional planning. Because distance learning is so different from classroom learning, it is important to look at both the roles of assessment and the implications of that assessment as it pertains to distance learners. This paper suggests that certain types of assessment can create a foundation for effective lesson planning at a distance. It also suggests that the logistics of distance may require innovative thinking about ways to conduct assessment of student progress.

Required Training

The resource is a description of practice and can be used as a training guide.

What the experts say

Based on the title, readers might anticipate they will find valuable “tried and true” assessment strategies for distance learning in these pages.  However, the paper was developed in 2004, with distance learning still struggling to find its way in the use of assessment.  Indeed, the examples highlighted grew out of the field’s need to research this very issue.*  As stated in the closing, the three approaches discussed were “presented to suggest options and stimulate thinking about other possible approaches to assessing distance students for ongoing progress,” and that it does.

So while it does not give the results of proven strategies, it certainly does offer strategies for using alternative assessment to inform instructional planning; and it is effective to stimulate thinking and to show some of the behind-the-scenes considerations to transform traditional classroom assessments into appropriate tools for distance education.  It convincingly shows transferability (from classroom to distance education) and offers promise with three specific alternative assessments:

  • Checklists
  • Portfolios
  • Online quizzes

*Assessment and Accountability Issues in Distance Education for Adult Learners, Young, Shannon J., Johnston, Jerome, and Hapgood, Susanna E., Institute for Social Research – University of Michigan, First Edition, September 2002

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