Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment

Imagine you are in the middle of your instructional plan in the classroom.  You glance toward the back wall to check the time, but someone has taped a message there that reads, "Stop and check for understanding."

How do you gauge the understanding of your students during any given topic?  Do you "stop and checking for understanding"?  And, if so, how often?
Stop and Check for Understanding sign

Formative assessment is an important part of your overall assessment plan, but can sometimes be forgotten when summative assessment is heavily emphasized.

Where summative assessment is more formal - end-of-topic quizzes, tests, papers, presentations - formative assessment should be fairly informal and easy to implement without a great deal of change to your plans.  

What to try:

Ticket Out (or In) the Door
This is the easiest way to implement a formative assessment strategy.  Use the last few (or the first) minutes of your class session for the students to answer a question on a half-slip of paper.
Ask, Answer, Evaluate
Ask Answer Evaluate
This strategy works best during class.  One student asks a question, another answers it.  Then a third evaluates the answer.  This could also be implemented in teams.
Answer Garden Answer Garden Try an easy tech option.  Answer Garden is a web space that let's you ask a question and displays all the answers as they are submitted.
Google Exit Forms Google Forms Use Google Forms for a higher tech option; you have access through your UC gmail account.  Google forms allows you to build an exit ticket, share it with students, and collect their responses instantly.

What to consider:

Types of questions matter.  

Convergent questions ("2+2" style, those that lead to one answer) can work well to check if students are understanding certain concepts on an individual level.  The results of these questions can help distinguish who needs more time or help with a concept.  Entrance and exit tickets can use convergent questions and make quick work of checking answers.

Divergent questions ("what if...?", those that open discussion) work well to show all your students what everyone is thinking.  Ask, Answer, Evaluate and AnswerGarden (above) will work best when asking a divergent question.

How to grade:

Don't!  Formative assessment is not for populating your grade book.  It informs your instruction and creates a low-stakes checkpoint for students.  Consider grading only for participation - the student gets credit for any question submitted, filling in the form, handing in the ticket regardless of their answer.  

The easiest way to handle a frequent participation grade is "2, 1, 0"  
2 points completed fully
1 points half complete
0 no participation

If you're checking for understanding each class, the occasional 1 or 0 will not sink an overall grade.

What worked:

"I use a sort-of "ticket IN the door" method to check on the course's reading assignments (since too many students may not be reading...).  Students are expected to create 2 to 3 questions on the current reading assignment.  Questions can be multiple choice, short answer, matching, or whatever they choose.  Each student submits those questions along with the answers to their own questions.  Then they get credit for the assignment.  The well-conceived questions go into a growing question bank that I can use for quizzes.  And it's a benefit to the students to see their questions used since they've already answered them."

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