Using Schoology Assessments to build The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale

I’ve had an awesome time tackling the challenge of digitizing The Arc’s Self-Determination Scale for our new transition specialist.  I’ve been learning about The Arc as an organization and also how Schoology’s upcoming Assessment feature goes well beyond the traditional mindset and technical setup of their previous Test/Quiz feature. We opted into the beta program for Assessments, and I’ve written before about how I first introduced Assessments in the context of how to build questions similar to those on the SC End of Course Exam Program (EOCEP).  The challenge of digitizing The Arc comes out of the idea that certain sections earn points per response.  So, I’m going to go through how I worked with our Transition Specialist to build a Schoology Assessment to produce The Arc data report without tallying by hand.

Why digitize?

Because this particular assessment is given to students with intellectual or developmental disabilities, it will probably also need various accommodations to ensure students have access to perform their best.  I’ve written before about how beneficial our MacBook one-to-one program is in context of providing access to those with special needs.  I’m a big fan of Apple products especially because of how they accommodate those who are blind.  By digitizing The Self Determination Scale, we not only get the benefit of being able to get instant results and a mastery report, but we also unlock a number of accessibility tools built-into our devices.  So, students can get large-print versions of questions; have the questions read to them by text-to-speech software built into MacOS; or they can opt to dictate responses to short answer prompts.  There’s a number of new accessibility tools now built into Schoology Assessments as well.  So, our aim was to alleviate the hand-scoring of a multipage assessment as well as open up efficiencies in providing accommodations to students who need them.

Challenges of The Self Determination Scale’s format

The Self Determination Scale assessment has four sections with different question types.  Each section has a different point accumulation system.  Raw scores/points from each of the four sections’ lead to a score that determines the assessed’s autonomy, self-regulation, psychological empowerment, and self-realization.  Raw scores from each section then need to be converted into a percentage… sounds like a lot of math, right?  Well, there is a lot of counting and conversion.

As an example, the facilitator of the assessment would need to award points depending on a student’s response to the question: “I make my own meals or snacks.”  The student’s response is scaled, so there’s no exact right/wrong that would fit into the old Test/Quiz feature.  With each of the answer options getting a different number of points, typical online quiz formats would prevent us from weighing students’ scores.

Why Schoology Assessments and Mastery Reporting is the perfect fit

This post could have been easily titled “Why Schoology is Super”, just because of the forward-thinking they put into their Assessment feature’s design so-far.  The features we employed are part of our Schoology Enterprise subscription as a district and also available only to the Assessments beta-testing group.  There were two big steps.

First, we did not want to use traditional raw scores only.  We wanted to eventually get a percentage that Arc calls a “Positive Score”.  So, we set up Learning Objectives around the sections and subsections of the assessment.  This would allow us to automatically generate the score report that used to have to be calculated by hand.  Now, we can see it using the Mastery tab in the course our Transition Specialist is facilitating.

Second, we developed an Assessment around each of the Sections.  We used the questions on The Arc and then tagged them with a mastery / learning objective.  That way, we can get the mastery report generated.

Conclusions

We really pushed the limits of all of these features.  I think this is what Assessments were really designed to do — provide data based on mastery.  And that challenges the all-to-common practice of presenting black/white answers to students from which to choose.  Mastery learning assumes that there is a progression of a skill… a spectrum of learning, if you will.  And Schoology is making a feature that is flexible and scalable.

After all of this work digitizing this assessment, surely we would want to share this work with others!  However, we already had trouble when building the Custom Learning Objectives — they can’t be shared.  Even though I’m a co-admin of the Course, I couldn’t see my Transition Specialist’s Learning Objectives or results in the Mastery tab.  As data becomes more of a focus of collaborative efforts in school systems, Schoology has to figure out a way to make Learning Objectives and Mastery data more shareable.  Improvements could include the ability to share Learning Objectives; making Learning Objectives “travel” when resources are shared; or even allowing co-admins of Courses to see the full contents of the Mastery tab in a Schoology course.

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