Teacher-Approved Formative Assessments for Your Common Assessments
As you know, assessments are a major component of education. There are several different types of assessments that teachers utilize: pre-assessments, formative, summative, formal, common, standardized, and balanced. Assessments can be given before instruction, during instruction, and after instruction.
No matter what assessment you use, they all share the same goal of determining what students know in order to inform your instruction.
Effective assessments give teachers the data they need to guide their instruction. What you do with that data is just as important as the assessment that you use, if not more so. Common assessment is an excellent method that allows you to focus on the learning that is happening in your classroom and tailor your instruction to each of your student’s needs.
What Is a Common Assessment?
A common assessment is an assessment that teachers develop collaboratively and agree to use uniformly across their classrooms. For common assessments, educators who teach the same content work together to establish the best methods for determining students’ learning acquisition.
When developing common assessments, teachers must consider the following questions:
- What do students need to learn?
- How will we know when students have learned it?
- What will we do if they haven’t learned it?
- What will we do if they’ve mastered it?
Benefits of Common Assessments
Common assessments can be beneficial for educators for many reasons.
- Working collaboratively with other educators is more efficient.
- Common assessments are more equitable as they ensure that students in different classrooms have access to the same essential content and skills.
- Team-developed common assessments improve the practice of both individual educators and teams of educators.
One type of common assessment is a formative assessment.
Formative assessments are used by teachers throughout their lessons to gauge students’ understanding. These assessments allow you to check for understanding in education skills before a summative assessment is given.
Formative assessments happen frequently throughout instruction. The data gathered from formative assessments helps to guide teachers in modifying instruction to be responsive to students’ needs—benefiting both educators and students. Formative assessments also help students develop their metacognition when teachers ask them to reflect on their learning progress.
Creating Common Formative Assessments
Effective formative assessments consider the learning goals for the students, the criteria for measuring student success, offer descriptive feedback from teachers, and provide opportunities for self-assessment and collaboration with peers. They help teachers work toward closing the gap between what students currently know and what they need to know.
Powerschool identifies nine essential steps for teaching teams to follow when building common formative assessments:
- Deconstruct the standards together
- Focus on learning outcomes
- Decide on the number of items
- Choose appropriate item types for content
- Arrange items from easy to difficult
- Make it rigorous for all learners
- Make the duration realistic
- Provide clear directions
- Reflect and revise
Good teachers are constantly checking for student understanding, documenting, and using this information to plan instruction. Establishing a common formative assessment system for teachers will result in more targeted, data-driven instruction and, consequently, impactful learning.
Examples of Formative Assessments
There are many different types of formative assessments to choose from. By collaborating with your team, you’ll be able to determine the best common formative assessments to use for your content.
1. Entrance slips/Exit slips
Entrance slips are a great way to assess students’ knowledge of information from a previous lesson. Post a question (or differentiated questions) and have students quickly jot down their responses. Entrance slips are also an example of pre-assessments for new units. Before instruction, have students answer a question to determine what they already know about a topic.
Like entrance slips, exit slips make it easy to gauge how well students have grasped a concept. At the end of class, give students a prompt to answer before they leave the room. This can be done on a physical sheet of paper or digitally.
When designing an entrance/exit ticket, teachers should keep a few things in mind:
- Prompts should directly connect to an objective from your lesson.
- Prompts should be able to be completed in just a few minutes.
- The best tickets assess understanding, apply a concept, or demonstrate a concept.
Create a system to compile the data that you collect from tickets so that you can differentiate instruction accordingly.
2. Quizzes or polls
Whether you use pen and paper or prefer to go digital, classroom quizzes are excellent tools for measuring the progress of your class. Classroom clickers can be used for selected response assessments or open-ended questions for higher-order thinking skills.
3. Turn and talk
In this formative assessment, students are put in pairs or groups to discuss a question. The students then record their responses to share. Students can record their responses on whiteboards, sheets of paper, or in an app. This can be used as a formative reading assessment.
Asking students to assess their confidence in their knowledge of a particular skill is a powerful way to develop metacognition. As teachers, we can encourage a growth mindset and provide students with the support they need to be successful.
There are many different ways that you can have your students self-assess. At the end of the day, you may give your students a scale to rate their confidence level. If you use strategy groups in your classroom, consider displaying a few skills and having students place individual sticky notes under the skills they want to work on.
Quick-writes are brief assessments that can be done at nearly any point in your lesson. The purpose is for students to pause and reflect on what they’re learning. To determine mastery of academic vocabulary, teachers can select a few terms for students to use in their quick-writes. Students can then use word banks to complete the prompts.
Quick-draws help assess understanding of more abstract concepts. This assessment can be done at any age level. Simply select a major concept within your lesson and ask students to create a visual to demonstrate that concept. Students can explain their drawings in pairs or small groups.
Another type of formative assessment is called a “hold-up.” Teachers can offer a prompt or create a selected response assessment for a hold-up. Students then hold up a card, paper, whiteboard, or tablet to display their answers. This type of assessment allows teachers to quickly scan the room to see how well students understand a concept.
7. Chalkboard splashes
A “chalkboard splash” is a total participation technique created by William and Persida Himmele. A chalkboard splash allows your class to see the collective responses of their peers and you can see how well students understand a topic.
- Create a sentence starter, prompt, or question.
- Have students record their responses in designated places on chalkboards, whiteboards, or chart papers.
- Ask students to review the responses and consider similarities, differences, and perhaps surprises.
- Students can get into pairs or small groups to share what they noticed.
Technology and Formative Assessments
Teachers have access to a wide variety of engaging formative assessments thanks to developing technology. Technology offers an interactive element to assessment since teachers can provide feedback directly through many apps. Many of the apps and programs listed below can be incorporated into the formative assessments previously discussed.
One of the features of Schoology is a discussion board, which provides a shared space for students to record responses (for example, during a turn and talk).
Padlet is another program that provides a collaborative board for students to share their thoughts. Reluctant writers or English language learners may find the voice note tool useful in this app.
- Poll Everywhere
Poll Everywhere allows educators to create a question and collect responses from students simultaneously. Data from the poll is displayed in real-time directly on your question slide.
- Google Classroom Questions
Google Classroom Questions is a tool that allows teachers to post short-answer or multiple choice questions. It also allows you to follow up with individual students.
- Pear Deck
Pear Deck is a platform that offers various types of formative assessments, including drawing, multiple choice, and typing. Pear Deck is able to be integrated into other technology tools that you use in your classroom.
Mentimeter is a program that lets you create an interactive presentation for your students. Within the presentation, teachers can add polls or quizzes and see the audience’s answers in real time.
SeeSaw is an interactive app that is designed for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. This app offers students an opportunity to complete tasks in multiple modalities—drawing, video, voice recordings, and more. The app also features tools to streamline parent-teacher communication.
There are many different ways to assess your students’ learning. Through collaborating with your fellow teaching team members, you’ll be able to determine the best methods for collecting the data you need. Whatever assessment you choose, take time to reflect on how the information you collect will improve your teaching and your students will succeed.
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