Traditionally, when the word “assessment” is mentioned we immediately jump to a mental image of multiple choice tests and essay questions. However, while this type of assessment is helpful and has a time and a place, it is not the only method for examining how well our students have retained the information we have passed on to them.
“Formative assessment refers to a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course. Formative assessments help teachers identify concepts that students are struggling to understand, skills they are having difficulty acquiring, or learning standards they have not yet achieved so that adjustments can be made to lessons, instructional techniques, and academic support” (2014, Formative Assessment Definition).
Formative Assessments for a Lesson Objective
I have chosen several formative assessment techniques and explained how I might use them to assess the following lesson objective:
Objective: The students will describe the similarities and differences between Sparta and Athens.
Formative assessment #1:
Question Pause: After a mini lesson, I will pause and instruct students to discuss a question in pairs. This can be integrated with Think-Peer-Share strategy where students first answer questions individually, such as, “What does democracy mean?” They will then turn and share their thoughts with a partner. This is a quick method and should require less than 5 minutes. While students are deliberating, I will walk about the room to make myself available for questions.
Rationale: Students can have short attention spans, especially those with ADHD. Pausing the instruction to have children contemplate the information redirects their focus and provides a short break from “lecture” time. By doing a Think-Pair-Share assessment activity, students are able to rephrase the concepts in their own words, describe them to their peers, and thus solidify the new information in their minds.
Formative assessment #2:
Journal Entry Reflection: In a previous lesson students were asked to write a journal reflection following the prompt below:
“Have students write their first journal entry reflecting on where they would live in Greece and why. Have them follow the model of “If I lived in Ancient Greece I would live____________________(region) because of____________________(feature).”
Students could be asked to revisit this question, but with a twist. The new prompt could read as follows:
“Have students write a journal entry reflecting on which city-state they would prefer to live in and why. Have them follow the model of “If I lived in Ancient Greece I would live in____________________(city-state name) because of____________________(reasons).”
Another journal reflection prompt could be based on an in-class government role play:
Have the students write a reflective journal in which they address how they felt during each “acting out” piece. “Why would people strive to have a say in their government?”
Rationale: This assessment is important in gauging the level of understanding concerning concepts introduced in class. More importantly, it strictly follows the object and requires the students to know and describe the differences between Athens and Sparta and give their opinions about those differences.
Formative assessment #2.2:
Informal Observation: While students are working at their journal entries I will walk around and check for understanding and offer support to students that might require additional prompting. I will make sure to circulate to a variety of students (low to high performing).
Rationale: This assessment will help me check for understanding of some of the basic concepts. If I observe a number of students are struggling to answer the question, I can call a small-group back to my table to reteach where there is a misunderstanding. If needed, I could plan a reteach and review at the beginning of the next lesson.
Formative assessment #3:
Exit slip: At the end of the lesson students will be given a slip of paper/sticky note. Students will write their responses to questions such as, “Who was allowed to vote in Athens?” or “How were the Spartans different to the Athenians?” This will allow me to assess student understanding of important concepts. I could also have them write one thing they are still unsure about or need more explaining.
Rationale: This method is a quick way to assess where students are at in showing mastery of the information and what information needs to be reviewed. For example, if a several students are unable to answer a basic question, I know I will need to review or reteach that information in the next lesson.
While any type of assessment are better than none, it might not be an issue of which type of assessment is better than the other. I’m sure some teachers would vote for formative, while others fall in the summative assessment camp. However, balance tends to be the best option. A combination of both assessments maximizes the positive outcomes and is beneficial for students.
Perhaps formative assessments are not utilized as often and effectively as they could be. Formative assessments give students constant feedback to let them know they are on the right track. They also help prepare students to perform better on a summative assessment at the end of the unit.
Reinken, C. (2013). Using Exit Slips in the Art Room – The Art of Ed. Retrieved May 18, 2016, fromhttps://www.theartofed.com/2013/03/14/using-exit-slips-in-the-art-room/
Turn and Talk. (n.d.). Retrieved May 18, 2016, fromhttp://www.theteachertoolkit.com/index.php/tool/turn-and-talk
Image from: http://edge.ascd.org/blogpost/formative-assessment-an-introduction