Why Formative Assessments Matter
Since the focus of our profession is currently on summative assessments, sometimes known as high-stakes tests and projects, educators frequently find themselves in the challenging situation of rushing, rushing, and rushing through the curriculum.
But what about more casual judgments, such as formative ones? Do we seem to be putting in a sufficient amount of work here?
What Are They?
Checking for understanding in an efficient manner in order to direct instruction is the focus of informal assessments, also known as formative assessments. They are utilised in the course of training as opposed to being employed at the conclusion of a topic or overall study programme. And if we utilise them in the right way and do so frequently, there is a possibility that the pace of instruction will slow down when we realise that we need to re-teach or review information that the students “did not acquire” in their entirety, but this is perfectly acceptable. Because there are times when we need to go at a more leisurely pace in order to get somewhere swiftly.
This indicates that if we focus too much on reaching the conclusion of the topic, we risk losing our audience, which consists of the pupils. If you do not routinely evaluate your pupils’ understanding, then you are not in touch with the learning that is taking place in your classroom. It’s possible that they are already much behind schedule.
This is the ultimate excuse for laziness in the classroom, and we are all guilty of using it: “Do any of you students have any questions?” Take a brief break of three seconds. Silence. “No? Let’s go past this, shall we?”
Have you ever given the big project, test, or report at the end of a unit, only to be taken aback by the results, and not in a positive way? I have. It is not the students’ fault that the outcomes were so poor; rather, it is due to the fact that there were not enough formative evaluations conducted along the route to determine when, when, and how certain knowledge needed to be retaught or reviewed.
To Inform, Not Punish
If you find yourself wanting to surprise your pupils with a “gotcha” quiz, you should question yourself if the purpose of the quiz is to genuinely capture vital data or if the purpose is to scare them and perhaps “get them more serious about paying attention.”
Believe me when I say that I have been in the position where I wanted to punish those who were careless, arrogant, or nonchalant. Sometimes, all we want is to see the look of sheer terror on their faces as they count from one to ten on their half sheets of paper (after all, many of us went through the “gotcha” quiz while we were students!).
Just resist the urge to carry through with it since doing so would be foolish.
When and How?
Students are not meant to be caught off guard by formative exams; rather, they are used to guide the next step in the instructional process. We need to make frequent use of them, both during and after the process of teaching children a new idea, concept, or procedure.
When you are getting close to the Big End Project (or a summative assessment), and your students have just learned a piece or a step toward the end, check to see whether they have it by asking them questions about it.
In addition, rather than resorting to the tried-and-true method of taking a test, the following alternatives may be utilised instead:
Both the teacher and the students should find these activities enjoyable and not overly challenging. Ask the students a question that addresses the main point that will be covered in the session, and require them to write a phrase or two in response. Maintain your position by the exit and get them as each person leaves. Take a seat at your desk and go through each one, creating three stacks that correspond to the following categories: they get it, they kind of get it, and they don’t get it at all. The height of the stacks will indicate what action you should take next.
Provide your students with a checklist, and ask them to evaluate themselves. During the course of a unit of study, make sure you collect the checklists that correspond to each new notion. Make it a requirement that they write down one or two sentences explaining how they can tell they have it or why they believe they are still having trouble with it.
The Position Paper in Three Minutes
Because this task is more involved than the exit slip, I frequently give the students more time than the allotted three minutes. I try to avoid using the word “essay,” as it tends to make people anxious. I might instruct you to “Take out a piece of paper and tell me what you have learnt so far about .” Quite frequently, they will basically produce an essay (something that is typically something that they labour over on their own, in draughts!) I evaluate these using the same method as the exit slip, which involves making three stacks.
A Synopsis in One Sentence
Request from the students that they compose a summary sentence that addresses the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” questions regarding the issue.
Verification of a Misconception
Explain to pupils some of the more usual or predicted misunderstandings that can arise regarding a particular principle, procedure, or topic. Ask them if they agree or disagree, and if they do, have them explain why. In addition, you can save time by presenting the misperception check in the form of a true-or-false or multiple-choice quiz.
Watch, Look, Listen
Formative evaluation can be accomplished by doing something as simple as monitoring the activities, behaviours, and statements of pupils. This can yield a plethora of relevant data. You have the option of taking notes during their conferences with one another, pair and share sessions, or group activities that involve collaborative learning (lab projects, literature circles, etc.).
Watch, Look, Listen
Where should one look? If there are dialogues taking place in smaller groups and the students are effectively implementing what they have learned, then more than one student is speaking at a time, they are talking over each other, and they are showing enthusiasm with their body, their hands, and their eyes. On the other side, if there is complete silence throughout this chat period and they are staring at you as you observe them, it is highly likely that they are confused.
To take notes, all you need to do is put a checkmark and a plus sign next to the names of the children in each group who contribute something valuable and relevant to the discussion at hand. (Place a checkmark next to each child whose sharing you hear in order to keep track of how many children you heard versus how many understand it.) It is time to review the material or conduct further instruction if there are 17 names on the list with checks but only four check-plus marks.
How do you determine whether or not your students have grasped the material? What are some formative assessments that you enjoy taking part in because you believe them to be effective, entertaining, and engaging? Kindly share with us your opinions, suggestions, and areas of experience.