At first glance, DiscoTests look like nothing more than high-quality formative assessments. But that’s just what’s on the surface. Underneath is a new approach to assessment—one that integrates insights from the learning sciences, psychometrics, teaching, and educational philosophy. DiscoTests are the elements of a new model for educational assessment that begins with the proposition that student development should be at the center of all decisions about how to structure education, including decisions about educational assessment. (Dawson & Stein)
“Student development should be at the center of all decisions about how to structure education.”
In order to build assessments that benefit every student, we're creating a new kind of standardized assessment infrastructure—one in which every assessment event provides a learning experience for students, equips teachers with diagnostics for making evidence-based instructional decisions, and provides policymakers with information that can be employed to support teacher and curriculum development. Every DiscoTest includes the assessment itself (called a Teaser) and a set of argumentation rating scales, diagnostic reports, and instructional resources that are aligned with assessment outcomes and curricular objectives. DiscoTests are electronically scored with CLAS, our automated developmental scoring system.
Because they are composed of open-ended questions that require thoughtful written responses, and include evidence-based diagnostics and resources, DiscoTests are ideal for embedding in virtuous cycles of learning—cycles of goal-setting, knowledge seeking, application, and analysis.
And because all DiscoTests are standardized and calibrated to a single developmental metric, they are also ideal for large-scale evaluations of educational programs. In other words, DiscoTests are built to serve both formative and summative functions, ensuring that every moment devoted to testing is also a moment devoted to learning. Click here to learn more about our mission.
The DiscoTest learning cycle begins with a Teaser. At the core of all Teasers are one or more real-world problems or scenarios, focused on a specific set of skills or concepts. These are followed by a series of questions that require students to connect ideas, think through problems, and communicate their reasoning.
We think of Teasers as “tests teachers want to teach to” because preparing students to do well on a Teaser requires helping them to (a) build a thorough understanding of targeted skills and concepts, (b) develop learning and reasoning skills, and (c) practice written communication skills.
Each Teaser is calibrated to a developmental scale known as the Lectical® scale, which is modeled on Dr. Kurt Fischer's dynamic skill scale. This scale represents levels of hierarchical complexity. Fischer's work integrates over 100 years of research in developmental psychology.
To calibrate a Teaser to the Lectical® scale, we first study how students learn the concepts and skills targeted by the particular Teaser. The research process provides unprecedented insights into the various learning pathways through which students master particular skills and concepts. These important insights are then used to populate reports and design learning resources.
Teasers are learning tools. Teachers, students, and parents can use them to supplement instruction, to find out what students understand before instruction begins, to find out how much students’ understanding has changed as a result of instruction, and to observe learning over time.
DiscoTest Report Cards show student growth over time in a range of subjects. Because all Teasers are scored on the same scale, it's easy to compare progress across subjects. For example, anyone looking at the report card below can see that this student tends to perform at a higher level in physical science than in social studies, and that growth in social studies is more uneven than growth in physical science.
Points on the DiscoTest report card represent assessment events. On a live report card, users can click on these buttons to view summaries of Teaser results or to jump to a specific report for more detailed information about a particular performance.
The DiscoTest Report Card provides a meaningful way for teachers, parents, and students to engage in learning. Teachers can gain a broader perspective on their students’ academic development. Parents can become more involved their children’s education. Students gain a more holistic sense of their own development over time, and have an opportunity to see themselves as successful learners.
DiscoTests are designed to help teachers support robust learning—learning that is usable and provides a solid foundation for future growth. They do this in several ways: