Effective Formative Assessment Strategies

When a player gets up to bat and strikes and misses twice, one small adjustment suggestion by the coach can make the next at-bat a hit. The same is true for students and teachers. Immediate feedback provided to the students with an opportunity to practice the skill right away can mean a “hit” for them.

When your students don’t perform the way you expected on an assignment or test, especially after you have spent time preparing, teaching, and directing activities, it can send you right into frustration. One simple way to determine what was wrong is to ask your students.

Practicing formative assessment and checking comprehension frequently through quick, low stakes assessments can yield the feedback you need to increase understanding.

How does formative assessment help?

  • The goal is to monitor student learning in quick ways multiple times in the instructional day.
  • This type of assessment helps the student identify their strengths and weaknesses right away.
  • The areas that need improvement are evident immediately.
  • It allows teachers and other faculty to provide clarification with little delay.

Here are some ways to check in with your students to adjust your target of success when teaching:

  1. Use a quick game to determine understanding. You could have them sketch a concept map; quiz a neighbor with 5 questions; do a 3-2-1 activity at the end of class where they write 3 things they learned, 2 things they want to learn, and 1 question they have; older students can summarize what was learned in a 140 character “tweet”.
  2. An entrance or exit ticket where the students answer a question related to the lesson.
  3. A physical or digital “place” where students can send anonymous questions on the current topic.
  4. The one minute paper responding to: the most important concept of the day, something that was confusing, something they think might be on the test, an “aha” surprising thought.

Benefits of Formative Assessments

The strength of formative assessment is the instant feedback it provides to the teacher so that he/she can make quick adjustments to the instruction. There are other benefits, as well:

  • Can keep students on track with clear goals, and minimizes the time off track.
  • Teachers can create more challenging instruction once they understand student needs better.
  • Regular questioning and feedback increase academic achievement.
  • When students can evaluate their own progress, they can aim toward the goal better.
  • Allows for a more personalized learning environment.
  • Gives students multiple opportunities to correct their work before summative evaluation.

When used as an assessment tool, formative checks can provide particularly valuable feedback to the teacher on gifted students and on those who are struggling, both of which can be are hardest to reach. Because this tool can be as versatile as the teacher wants it to be, the formative assessment should provide a lot of variety in feedback for both teachers and students. In this way, you can help all of your students hit “home runs.”







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