5 Ways to Gauge Your Students’ Understanding (That Aren’t Tests)

In previous decades, testing was the primary (and sometimes the only) method used to assess student learning. While most students can learn complex information, not all are good at taking tests. Educators now understand that there are many ways to evaluate student learning. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to assess student learning outside of testing. Below are five alternative ways to gauge your student’s understanding of the concepts that have been presented.


A portfolio is a type of folder, digital or physical, where students can assemble their work over a unit, semester, or year. You and your students can add work samples like writing, notes, photos of projects, and more. 

Portfolios are powerful assessment tools that can display students’ learning and even show their progression relating to a particular subject over time.

Use the classroom to your advantage

Your classroom can serve as an avenue for assessment. You can create elements in your classroom that relate to the learning topic. You can then ask kids to engage with classroom decorations, learning aids, and games and assess their responses to the material presented.

Authentic assessments

One of the biggest complaints about tests is that they aren’t authentic. Tests don’t mirror what students need to do in the real world if they are in various situations.

For example, you could get students to organize a fundraiser for a local animal shelter. They would have to create advertisements, write up plans and social media posts, create spreadsheets and graphs to show earnings, perform calculations, learn about animal science, and more. Students will demonstrate multiple skills while also using higher-order thinking.


Gamification is increasingly becoming a viable assessment method. Gaming is a big part of students’ lives, so it only makes sense to use it in the classroom. Students work well when given incentives and competition that can drive student learning. 

Online gaming can even help teach and assess new skills and understanding with new creations like the metaverse.

Project-based learning

Project-based learning (PBL) is similar to authentic learning but isn’t always accurate. It’s constructed to feel like an actual situation but is usually done in theory. 

PBL can be helpful because you can organize a project to assess the exact items you need to consider. You can also create scenarios that would be impossible to replicate in the real world. For example, your students may design a mission to Mars using a range of science, math, and ELA skills.

Parting thoughts

As a teacher, your primary goal is to ensure that your students understand new content, not to ensure they get high test scores. A high test score doesn’t always indicate a clear grasp of the content.

Conversely, among others, one of these assessment methods can be a great way to ensure your students have a firm understanding of new content. These assessments also give students a better chance to show what they know by going much more in-depth than a test.



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