On Aug 17, 2022
Destination, Data Insights:
Implementing Quick Checks of Learning to Accelerate Student Knowledge
During my years as an upper elementary classroom teacher, I began math class each day with my students independently solving 5 spiral review questions on their personal dry-erase whiteboards. “Hold up your white board,” I stated after a few minutes of independent work time for each problem, one at a time. As boards were held high with the problem, work, and correct/incorrect answer, I scanned the room and quickly provided oral feedback to each student, confirmed the accurate solution, and explained any evident errors and misconceptions. I took note of any concerns at that point and was sure to provide 1 or more similar-type questions the following day or soon thereafter, to ensure everyone mastered the assessed learning targets or skills. In just a few minutes of the start of class each day, my students practiced what they learned in a non-evaluative setting, and I was able to quickly assess my students’ current knowledge of concepts and remediate, prior to new learning.
Having students demonstrate their knowledge of a concept on a white board with a dry-erase marker is one example of formatively assessing students. Are you familiar with students responding to an exit ticket, writing a summary paragraph, completing homework problems, answering quiz questions, completing a graphic organizer, or conducting an electronic questionnaire on a selected topic? These are all examples of formative assessments, designed to measure how well students are learning taught skills.
What is a formative assessment?
Formative assessments provide students with immediate feedback while they are learning, serving as a checkpoint along the way to steer the learning content and guide the instructional pace. Implementing formative assessments often surfaces misconceptions around a skill or idea and can necessitate a pause for reteaching before moving to new learning. Formatively assessing students occurs during the learning process and guides the teacher in determining instructional & pacing adjustments. They are commonly known as ‘assessments FOR learning’ and enable the student to practice demonstrating learning in a non-punitive manner, adjust and improve, and gain confidence in the subject knowledge prior to the summative assessment.
Formative assessments are short and prescriptive in nature, are not used for grades, and should align to one or a few standards assessed in the upcoming summative assessment. Two types of formative assessments evident in classrooms are unobtrusive and obtrusive assessments.
Examples of Formative Assessments
Formative assessments come in many shapes, sizes, and forms across content areas and grade levels. In Pre-K, Kindergarten, and first grade, administering frequent assessments in a 1-on-1 setting allows the teacher to immediately know the student’s knowledge of early foundational literacy and math skills necessary for application in the later grades. Using an online formative assessment platform, such as ESGI (Educational Software for Guiding Instruction), to administer these quick ELA and math assessments and view instant results, can save teachers 400 hours a year to use towards instructional planning. Click here to learn more about ESGI’s 2,000 formative assessments for administration and to access a 90-day free trial.
In the upper elementary grades, formative assessments are administered individually, in a small group setting, as well as to a whole class of students. Formative assessments in these grade levels could include oral or written questioning, active movement such as standing up/sitting for a true statement read aloud, moving to an area of the room to answer a question or explain a concept, and completing computer games/activities to show student learning. Quizzes and group discussions are typical formative assessments in middle school, while drafts of term papers or essays, group project tasks, science lab write-ups, and explaining research findings on a specified topic serve as formative assessments at the high school level.
Formatively assessing students throughout the learning process not only accelerates their learning pace of content, but builds confident learners, ready to tackle new challenges. As you plan for upcoming instruction, what formative assessments will you include to know where students are in their learning prior to a summative assessment? How will you provide them feedback and use their current knowledge of concepts to guide your instruction? Administering formative assessments throughout the learning journey efficiently informs students of what they know, where they can improve, and provides students the insights needed to unlock their fullest academic potential.