Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Formative assessment, meet technology!"

                      I love assessments. They’re a great way of figuring out how well your students are receiving, reacting and engaging with the learning that is going on in the classroom. Unfortunately most of us are used to utilizing only one type of assessment i.e. summative (tests, final exams, regents, SAT’s, etc.). It’s the “other” assessment which I enjoy as an educator: formative assessment.

                According to the book, Transformative assessment (Popham, W. J. 2008), "Formative assessment is a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students' status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics" (p. 6). In other words, as opposed to summative, which is a summary of what the kids “seem” to know at the end of unit, lesson, year etc.,  formative is done throughout the year, at various times, to assess how effective you, as the teacher, are teaching, and how well the students are learning and adjust accordingly. Here is a great chart which outlines the differences between summative and formative assessment.

Formative assessment helps us become better at what we do as educators!
               It’s in this area that technology really shines. There are various web tools that can help us gather information in order to adjust our instruction methods and reach all of our students.

                I recently viewed a workshop from the ISTE conference in 2011 which discussed the value and key points of formative assessment with technology. Based on the book, Transformative assessment, they summed up the key points in the process of formative assessment as follows:

        I.            Planned process
  1. Not a test but a process completed by teachers, learners or both
  2. Teacher has a goal of what they want to learn from the assessment results
  3. Formal and/or informal assessment

      II.            Assessment-Elicited Evidence
  1. Adjustments are based on evidence (data) of current level of mastery
  2. Assessment procedure (comment marking, exit cards, game, graphic organizer, simulation, peer/self assessment, quiz/test, project, portfolio, etc.) is designed to produce the evidence

    III.            Teachers adjust instruction
  1. Evidence is used to make adjustments to ongoing instruction
  2. Learners adjust learning tactics (21st Century Skill)
  3. Evidence is used to change methods they are applying while trying to learn

    IV.            Implementation Options
  1. To make an immediate instructional adjustment
  2. To make a near-future instructional adjustment
  3. To make a last-chance instructional adjustment
  4. To make a learning tactic adjustment
  5. To promote a classroom climate shift

They go on to mention a few types of webtools that I thought were extremely useful.

One mentioned was Rubistar. Rubrics are great at helping us understand what are individual student’s strengths and weakness are in a particular subject. But creating a rubric for every lesson or subject might not be that practical. Rubistar is a great way to search for thousands of templates as well as rubrics already created by teachers around the world (why reinvent the wheel?).

Another tool was Todaysmeet. Todaysmeet is a web-based back channeling tool which is simple to create and easy to use. Although it might not be practical in all classrooms (your students will need to have access to some type of mobile device (iPads, cellphones, etc.) during class), it’s a great way to deliver direct instruction and allow the students to send in questions or comments without the teacher stopping or the student being embarrassed to ask what they might perceive to be a “dumb” question. Back channeling can be a real-time snapshot of a learners understanding, and offers the teacher an immediate opportunity to adjust instruction, respond, and clarify.

One of my all-time favorites is Google forms.  I use forms as a way to quickly and efficiently gather data from my students to find out how well they understood the information taught that day. I will constantly find concepts that are misunderstood or ideas that students didn’t grasp during class, and I immediately plan accordingly for the following day in order to ensure student success. Survey monkey or Poll everywhere can also achieve these goals.

A method that comes to mind but was not mentioned was Socrative. Socrative is an iOS app which I frequently use as an exit poll for my students during the last 5-10 minutes of class. Instead of throwing out a few questions and receiving a couple of comments from the students who already know, I can now properly access everyone all at once with immediate results. I usually share it with the class by mirroring my iPad onto the projector and we collaboratively figure out the solutions.  (Again, access to an iOS device is necessary.)

What types of tools or techniques do you use for formative assessment?

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