What purpose does formative assessment serve? Formative assessments are a teacher-tool that should not only serve the teacher in their endeavor to gather evidence of what students know, and in turn, modify their instruction and curriculum, but should also serve the students and their learning. Formative assessments that cater to both the needs of the teacher and the students are the types that we, as educators, should be using. Below, I have presented three examples of three such formative assessments that I did not know before the writing of this post. These three examples are all based off of literature recommendations that I found online. Each example contains instructions on how to do it, and accompanying that, the following questions will be addressed:
Ask students questions and have them respond on notebook paper/sticky notes/notecards anonymously. Students then hand their papers in. Teacher immediately redistributes the papers back to students randomly for the purpose of grading and assessing formatively. Students get practice grading others work, readdressing what the content being taught is, and all the while, should not know whose paper is whose. The teacher then takes an informal poll about how many questions students answered correctly, taking note of what changes need to be made (if any).
This type of formative assessment may come across as simple and a waste of time for students, but I think that if it is used in a way that isn’t just re-call, but more-so deep thinking or analyzation, then this type of assessment will serve both the teacher and the students in a positive manner. Another problem with this assessment might be surrounding the goal of anonymity and its failure to remain that way – however, I think that anytime an assignment asks for students to remain unknown is good, for it allows students to be honest and true to themselves and their learning.
This example would also offer the teacher a quality understanding of what the class as a whole is learning, but it does not do well at all in gathering data about the individual student. This is an important point to take note of. Whole class assessment is a good tool for the teacher, and I would use this example for exactly that. It is quick, easy, and could be done for a range of lessons, units, concepts, activities, etc.
"My Favorite NO"
Assign students a warm-up problem or two – questions surrounding whether or not students have grasped some aspect of content taught. Hand out two index cards to each student. The students will answer the problems/questions – one response must be a YES meaning that they are writing briefly about what they are sure they understand. The other response on the other notecard must be a NO meaning that they are writing about what they are unsure of, don’t understand, or still have questions about. Sort the index cards into yes/no piles. Choose your 5 favorite NO responses and analyze/address them as a class. Also, read some/all of the YES cards to see if the students are getting what you’re putting down.
I think this example sounds pretty fun for the teacher and students alike. How often are students asked to be brutally honest about what they are learning – not often. This formative assessment example could be anonymous if need be, which might add a little more fun. Anonymity may make students feel more safe in sharing their misunderstandings, confusions, concerns, or complete disregard for the content. Either way, the teacher will select their favorite (or at least the one’s they consider the most important) NO’s so that they can address them with the class.
One issue I see with this type of assessment is that students may not take it seriously enough. Some guidelines might need to be made known before the assessment takes place. But other than that, I don’t see any other issues… Perhaps you do? Let me know in the comments.
Another interesting thought I have is what if you organized the students into groups and they did this with one another – that way, the NO’s could be addressed by the students – meaning that there is accountability, self-learnings, and students teaching students at play. Whether it be in this fashion or another, I would use this assessment. I like the idea of students outright telling me if they don’t understand, but the reality is that they will not do that and that their confusions will not be addressed. With an assessment like this, at least we will be getting somewhere.
Metacognition as a type of formative assessment would allow for the students to process what they did in class, why it was important, and if there is anything that remains unknown. This is a sort of end-of-class/exit-ticket type of formative assessment in which students are to complete a short questionnaire similar to the one below:
The purpose of this is not only for the teacher to collect, provide feedback, and modify instruction if need be… But also a tool for students to be fully aware of what it is they are learning, how they are grasping it, and how it is applicable. Having a prepared document (half-sheet sized) is how I imagine this. A tangible exit-ticket that the students fill out.
Problems with this formative assessment might vary from classroom to classroom and teacher to teacher – and student to student. I think it really depends on who is doing it, how it is being done, and what it is being done on. A problem I can’t help but think about is students taking it seriously. Incentive might be necessary… I think that talking about metacognition and explaining the importance of this assessment to students beforehand is a good idea. This type if assessment I might use sparingly, meaning that it would only come about occasionally – for specific completions of tasks that I want students to reflect deeply on… I would probably have them write a whole lot for each question and make sure that it is a grade so that they give me some in-depth thought…
Perhaps you might have other thoughts/concerns?