One of the things that really excites me about learning is knowing when I have really learned something new. I know I’ve learned something when I incorporate this new piece of learning into my problem solving and critical thinking. So, as a teacher, how do I know when my students are learning and have learned content? Since I can’t get inside of their heads, I have to rely on formative assessments to tell me how much is being learned, and let this direct my teaching.
20th Century formative measures In 20th Century learning, teachers use paper and pencil having kids answer a few questions, collect them, scramble through them to figure out who isn’t learning, pull those students for intervention, while having something for the kids to do who are getting it. Another strategy is to have kids raise their hands answering questions hoping every student is really telling the truth. Both options are difficult.
21st Century formative measures In this digital age, teachers have the opportunity to leverage technology to their advantage to gain insight into what students have learned. Students have wireless devices today that may be an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Nook, Kindle, Android or laptop, and, because they have these, it gives teachers the opportunity to gather accurate information quicker, easier, and with greater efficiency. These formative measures can be embedded within instruction giving teachers flexibility when to use it. Using technology gives us instant feedback allowing for responsive teaching vs. reactive teaching. By this I mean that formative measures share quick, reliable data helping us give responsive intervention as soon as it is needed rather than wait until the next day when the learning moment is past. Dylan Wiliam, author of “Embedded Formative Assessment” shares his view on formative assessment.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3HRvFsZHoo&w=520&h=315]
Kevin Rich, English Language Arts teacher at Lakeridge Junior High School, wrote a guest blog about formative assessment in writing. While this post is not about writing, it is about how to do this easily. His second point brings simplicity to an embedded formative measure:
Don’t try to do too much with any single formative assessment. Feedback is most effective if it’s given during the writing process. That means that formative assessment must be very quick and easy for me as a teacher. By formatively assessing just one or two skills or standards that I taught that day, I can diagnose which students have a lack of understanding as they are writing.
Formative Measure Tools
Getting caught up in measuring every part of your lesson is unrealistic. So, the measurement tool has to be relatively easy too. Below are a list of tools that can be used in class and are free.
- Tool 1 – Mentimeter > Interact with your students letting them give you valuable feedback.
- Tool 2 – Quiz Star > Free quiz maker for all teachers.
- Tool 3 – Twtpoll > This is a free or you can pay for powerful features. Create polls that others can interact with using Twitter.
- Tool 4 – polls.io >
- Toll 5 – Edmodo > This is a free LMS for teachers to help connect them in powerful ways by joining communities. Once a member, quizzes can be created for students to take which can be either formative or summative.
- Tool 6 – Google Form > Create a Google account and use Forms to create formative measures.
- Tool 7 – Socrative > Engage students in a variety of ways in class to gather important information about what they are learning.
- Tool 8 – cel.ly > Not only can you create cells for students to work within, but polls can be created for formative assessment. Results of polls are stored for teachers to go back and review.
- infuselearning – This is a great site to collective formative data about your students. Not only do you have the normal types of questions – i.e. true/false, matching, and MC – but you have the ability to add in a draw response too!
What To Do Now
Preview the eight tools above to determine which one suits you better. I have used Google Forms, Edmodo, and cel.ly and like all three. Whatever one you choose to use, start slow. Choose one lesson where you can use it easily, match it up to a learning standard, and use it. The great part about using BYOD as a response system is that the data you get can be stored so you can create an anthology of learning about every student over the course of a school year. When it is time to communicate with parents, teachers, or administrators, you can bring your data with you to show learning progress. Having this kind of data kept over time also allows you to determine the effectiveness of RTI.