Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Formative Assessment During #RemoteLearning

In an ongoing effort to support Educators during the COVID-19 Pandemic Shaelynn Farnsworth and I continue to look for ways to use research-based instruction during remote, hybrid or face-to-face instruction. This week we look at Formative Assessment, how it works and why it can be a powerful tool no matter what your teaching and learning looks like. 

One of the challenges many educators face during learning is understanding where students are on their path to understanding and how teaching can adjust. Traditionally, teaching has been a one-way enterprise with the teacher dispelling knowledge for a period of time and then assessing what the students know either through a quiz or test. 

Formative assessment changes all that by providing small opportunities throughout a lesson to gauge where students are in their learning and make those subtle adjustments in the moment. There is no doubt this is easier to do when in the classroom face-to-face. Body language can tell you a lot. But also the ability to quickly and easily change instruction is just easier to do when we are are all together. 

However, now we are in the midists of a global pandemic that sees many students learning remotely and the passionate educators who teach them trying to ensure they are doing just that: learning. Formative assessment can be an incredibly powerful tool to use during this time and can become a foundation to change teaching and learning far beyond these unusual times. 

What Is Formative Assessment-There are many ways to describe formative assessment. Simply put, Formative Assessment is taking a pause in learning to ensure students are where they need to be for a particular lesson. The best formative assessments are subtle, giving teachers an overall picture of how students are learning and adapting to their immediate needs. Think of it as a GPS for the teacher—knowing where students are in their learning and where you should head in your teaching.

Formative Assessment could also look like “check-in” questions at the end of a lesson or class, offering valuable information on which direction to head next. Formative Assessments should not be graded assessments. At the end of the day, the goal is to get a pulse on what students know and how effectively the teacher is teaching the material.

But Why Formative Assessment-From the ASCD Book Formative Assessment Strategies for Every Classroom: An ASCD Action Tool, 2nd Edition, Susan Brookhart explains that:

Formative Assessment refers to the ongoing process students and teachers engage in when they:

  • Focus on learning goals.
  • Take stock of where current work is in relation to the goal.
  • Take action to move closer to the goal.

Students and teachers who are engaged in the Formative Assessment process are constantly examining how teaching and learning work as one. If we look at Hattie’s Effect Size, or practices that best move student learning forward, Providing Feedback, Providing Formative Evaluation, and Self-Questioning had anywhere from a 0.64 to 0.68 effect size. What do these results show us? These studies show us that students and teachers who engage in the Formative Assessment process learn and retain more information compared to take-home homework.

Low-Tech Formative Assessment, Remotely- Technology can make the collection of data related to Formative Assessment easier, but it’s not necessary. Especially now that many students are learning from home, it may seem counterintuitive to not lean on technology but technology fatigue is a very real thing and we need to be aware of the low-fi ways to not only continue to engage students but also understand where they are in their learning.

We’ve seen a variety of different low-tech ways to gauge student understanding:

  • Individual Student Check Ins-These can be great not only for formative assessment but also for the social-emotional wellbeing of students as well. 
  • Breakout Rooms-Formative assessment can tell us a lot about what students understand the learning and which do. Now with breakout rooms in Zoom, Teams and Google Hangouts you can not only identify what students are in need but also provide more direct instruction to a smaller group. 
  • Entry/Exit Tickets-Having a simple form that you can have students describe what they learned that day or what learning they are still having trouble with can be a valuable tool in remote learning. 
    • Entry Ticket Ideas
      • Identify 3 points you remember from yesterday’s lesson
      • The thing that has interested me most about this topic so far is__
      • Right now I’m feeling __ about this lesson because I ___
    • Exit Ticket Ideas
      • What 3 points are you taking away from today’s lesson?
      • What are 3 things you are still uncertain about?
      • What are you hoping to learn in our next lesson?

Our Favorite Apps and Tools For Formative Assessment-We’ve talked about how Formative Assessment can be done without tech. However, when we add that layer into our teaching and learning, we can do so much more. Now we can not only provide both synchronous and asynchronous types of formative assessment but we can look at mastery and data over time making it much easier to make those changes to instruction that may be needed. 

There are many (free!) apps and tools out there that achieve this. These are just a few of our favorites:

  • Nearpod— Create lessons and sync them across devices in the classroom, with built in tools for questioning, drawing, audio and video responses.
  • Synth— One of our favorite tools built for Formative Assessment. Available on any device, students can record their thoughts and feelings on any given lesson. There’s also a questions tool where feedback can be posted.
  • EdPuzzle— Add an interactive layer to YouTube videos. Teachers can build in short questions at various points in the video to ensure students are getting what they need out of it. This is also great for data collection and seeing how students’ progress over time.
  • Flipgrid— A very cool way to post video questions and gather responses. Videos can be shared so students can see where their peers are in their learning as well.
  • Padlet—A virtual board for multimodal sticky notes. Great for tickets out the door or reflection activities.

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