Educational Leadership, March 2014
By using technology for immediate formative assessment, I can give students timely feedback and change lessons on the fly to address student needs…. I use the Socrative student-response system to ask students multiple-choice or short-answer questions at the beginning of class about the novel they’re reading. They can use iPads, laptops, or smartphones to answer the questions. The program immediately sends me a report with student responses that I can use to address comprehension issues….
—Kate Lewis, 8th gr. language arts teacher, Shrewsbury (MA) Public Schools
Illustrated Mind Maps
My students create illustrated mind maps—diagrams that show with pictures what they know about a key concept. Example: to create a mind map of a U.S. Civil War battle, students need to convey all of the information they’ve learned about that battle with minimal text. (A large key might indicate that the battle was the “key” to victory, a graph representing the number of soldiers might reveal one side’s advantage….)
To create these mind maps, students need to determine what they know, then choose a way to represent the information. Both the process and the product reveal the depth of a student’s learning. These assessments can be used formatively throughout a unit—with students adding information as they learn more—and also as a summative assessment….
—Laura Putinski, 8th gr. social studies, Fairfield Christian Academy, Lancaster OH
A Reflective Essay
The final exam for my freshman composition students is a reflective essay. Students use examples from their own work during the semester to show how they have grown as writers, how their approach to and attitude about writing have changed, and what writing goals they have for the future. This is, hands-down, the best piece of writing most of them do all semester. I use the results not only to evaluate their readiness to move on in our writing program, but also as valuable feedback for the course itself….
—Renee Moore, English, Mississippi Delta Community College (Cleveland MS)
I have a pocket chart mounted on the wall next to my classroom door. Each day, students write on an index card a brief reflection about their learning, either in response to a specific prompt from me or on their own. I collect and review the index cards daily. Sometimes I use the information as fodder for the next day’s class, other times I use it to group students by their strengths and challenges for instruction. We keep these exit tickets from month to month to reflect on personal growth throughout the school year.
—Laura Grayson, Kirkwood MO
At the end of the week, I have each student summarize on a class Google doc what he or she learned relative to the weekly learning goals. I showcase selected student answers in class (anonymously) and make connections to the new learning for the week. This assessment can show me patterns of misconceptions among students.
—Andrew Ashcraft, Indianapolis IN
If we [give students] clear instructions about how to reflect on their progress…they will almost always diagnose their own strengths and weaknesses accurately. Recently, a self-evaluation exercise on a persuasive essay allowed my 9th grade literature students to volunteer comments ranging from the practical (“I need to start wearing my glasses—I can’t see the whiteboard and made some mistakes I could have avoided”) to the thoughtful (“I found this too easy. I need to work on challenging myself to use a deeper vocabulary”). Student self-evaluation enables me to see where I need to target reteaching and improve my content or teaching style.
—Liz O’Neill, English, St. Agnes School (St. Paul MN)
A Self-Reflection Survey
At the end of each unit, my students complete a survey…. (1) Which assignment/activity did you find most helpful in enhancing your understanding of the major themes? Why? and (2) Which assignment/activity did you find most difficult? Why? The survey is not only an exercise in metacognition for students, but also an opportunity for me to…evaluate the strategies I employed to meet the unit objectives…. Students use the survey…to tell me how they learn best and what they need help with. I use the feedback…to adjust and plan future units, share strategies with my colleagues, and track trends over time.
—Angela Estrella, Lynbrook HS (San Jose CA)
Individual Reading Conferences
The most informative assessment I’ve used in my 18-year career is the reading conference. As part of our daily 72-minute class period, my students read books of their choice silently for 10–20 minutes. While they’re reading, my teaching partner and I alternate days in which one of us confers with individual students outside the classroom while the other stays in the classroom…. Through the conferences, [we] get a good understanding of students’ fluency (we have them read out loud to us), comprehension, interests, and attitudes about reading. We also learn whether they read at home, what obstacles they face in becoming better readers, and whether they’re making wise choices about what they’re reading. We work with them to set their own reading goals, to find the right books for them, to overcome their obstacles, and to celebrate books and passages that they love.
—Serena Kessler, English, Romulus (MS) HS
A “Show-Me” Checklist
I devise a quick “show-me” assessment wherein I ask the students to perform certain tasks and score them on a checklist that I have made ahead of time. I use the information to individually assist those in need… as well as to get an overall view of the collective skills of my class and reteach anything they haven’t mastered….
—Cyn Campbell, computer application, Coastal Georgia Comprehensive Academy (Savannah GA)
We began pretesting our students on every essential standard in mathematics. These pre-assessments help us determine how deeply we need to teach each standard to meet student needs. It has been the most powerful assessment, and we have used the data in our district to make decisions about what students are learning, what they need to learn, and how they need to learn it.
—James Scott, curriculum director, Nadaburg School District # 81 (Surprise AZ)