When I was 15 years old, Drivers’ Education, for me, took place in a classroom and the parking lot of John Marshall High School. As I recall, we spent many class periods reading and talking about the act of driving a car. We had a simulator that arrived by truck and was parked in the parking lot for us to practice in before we were ready to take to the road.
Mr. Knipshield, 'Nipper' as we called him, showed us movies, told us stories and had us read articles about driving. Along the way, he would give us quizzes to ensure that we were ready to pass our permit test so that we could graduate from the parking lot driving to the open road. My guess is that he would adjust his lessons based on what we still needed to know.For this portion of our learning, the permit test was the summative assessment. If we did not pass, we would be stuck in the parking lot.
As we were driving back and forth or in an oval in the parking lot, Nipper was talking to us over the radio in our cars. “Slow down, speed up, car #6-leave more space between you and the car in front of you.”
On the road, he was continually giving feedback and was even equipped with a brake in case of an emergency. We had to do our part, but we knew exactly what we needed to work on at all times.
So, what does this reminiscing have to do with classroom teaching? Everything. When we think of the power of formative assessment, it is incredible. Many educators argue that this is the most integral part of effective teaching. With regular formative assessments, both the student and the teacher know the next steps for teaching and learning. The student knows what they know and don’t know, and the teacher knows what to do next. By gathering this information, classrooms become less of a “string of activities” and more of a direction on a clear path.
As an assessment expert, Paul Black put it, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s the formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s a summative assessment.” One definition of formative assessment can be found here.
When I think of Nipper, he was continually individualizing our learning based on what we were doing at any given time. He would adjust our classroom lessons based on our quizzes, questions, and answer during class. He would adjust and give feedback on our behind-the-wheel lessons based on our driving performance. Depending on our need, he interacted with us differently. We all had the same goal in mind-passing the driving test! We just may have needed a different way of getting there.
In this article , there are 10 examples of formative assessments. By choosing the appropriate one for the situation, a teacher will be able to adjust instruction or practice to fit the needs of a learner or group of learners.
One conversation I have been a part of many times has to do with the time that it takes to give and analyze formative assessments. One thing I think about is the amount of time that may be spent preparing lessons that may or may not address the needs of the students. With formative assessments, our lesson planning time will be targeted and more efficient. When our goal is learning for all, knowing where my students are will help me know where to take them next.
As I think back to Mr. Knipshield and his many classes of 15-year-old adolescents, I am thankful that he gave us all the feedback that we needed along the way. We needed to learn and practice in many different ways in order to become roadworthy. I am also aware that my learning is ever present. I am now the one that is formally assessing my driving. After 37 years of driving, I still need to check myself to ensure that my practice is up to par. This is the highest level that we can hope for our students to attain; to internalize the process and using it through life.
[Also, check out this blog for a peek at how formative assessment and self-assessment go hand in hand. This topic just may appear in a future blog post!]
This post brought to you by Ann Miller, K-8 Math Specialist
Have you tried to incorporate a Proficiency Scale from one of a course's Prioritized Learning to assess an activity you currently use in your classroom?
I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with a biology teacher who was having his students investigate the contribution of scientists who helped to discover and reveal the structure of DNA. We decided this activity could best be assessed using the Biology Proficiency Scale for "Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information." In order for students to be considered 'proficient' in this Prioritized Learning, they would need to meet the following criteria as listed in the Proficiency Scale: "Students can evaluate and interpret the validity and reliability of claims, methods, and designs. Then they can synthesize a synopsis of the material and communicate that information (eg. orally, graphically, in writing and/or mathematically)."
This Proficiency Scale is at the 'Apply' and 'Evaluate' levels of Bloom's Taxonomy and thereby requires a different type of assessment than a multiple choice or short answer structure. In our planning sessions for this activity, we found that we would have to tailor our assessment strategy in a way that is different than the traditional objective type questions that are often asked of our students.
In the article "Three Key Questions on Measuring Learning” (Education Leadership 2018), Jay McTighe attends to the idea that as educators change their focus from knowledge based assessments to skill based assessments, they need to adjust their measurement tools from objective type questions with simple point values to subjective questions that level a student along a proficiency continuum. To show proficiency in a skill, students need to use knowledge to perform that skill and show their understanding. In this particular activity, students would need to show that they could communicate both orally and in writing that they are able to synthesize the information about our understanding of DNA. We decided on the following structure for the lesson and assessment:
The Lesson Plan for our “Jigsaw/Gallery Walk” Framework
Day 1 | Individual student - Obtaining information:
Students were assigned to a scientist and given one of three questions to answer about the scientist's contribution in the discovery of DNA. The students were informed that their contribution was critical for their group's success.
Day 2 | Research Group - Synthesize ideas, evaluate information, and create the poster:
Students brought their research to their group for a collaborative poster design project. The groups were given a criteria for questions that needed to be answered on the poster. Students were encouraged to be creative in their poster design.
Day 3 | Research Group - Finalized the poster and presentation:
Students polished both their poster and planned how they would present to their home group.
Day 4 | Home Group - Gallery Walk Communication:
The home group consisted of six students. Each student had the opportunity to present their own research and poster to the other students in their home group. The presenter was given a feedback template consisting of four parts:
Day 5 | Individual - Assessment:
The students were asked to communicate in writing a synthesized synopsis of the material.
In summary, one can see that this lesson pushed students to move beyond knowledge acquisition into synthesis. The use of a Jigsaw/Gallery Walk where the students could get feedback from peers and the final written assessment where the teacher could give feedback helped to drive student learning and move the students toward proficiency on the Prioritized Learning.
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
What if we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that a particular practice would increase student learning in a profound way? What if this practice had no price tag and was readily available to teachers at all sites? What if we already had time set aside in our calendar to devote to this practice? This exists: we know what to do, it costs us nothing, and we have time set aside to do it.
The practice I am talking about is the powerful practice of developing and giving a common formative assessment, and then analyzing the collected data in Professional Learning Communities.
A Snapshot of How This Might Look in Practice:
My PLC teammate and I meet to discuss what we will be teaching and assessing coming up. We agree to focus on the Prioritized Learning related to creating a strong argument with text evidence.
We agree on a formative way to assess this skill: we’ll both use an outline format called a fishbone analysis. We decide how we're going to score it using the Proficiency Scale that aligns with the Prioritized Learning.
Individually, we both teach the lesson, give the assessment, and score our students' work.
Individually, we look for trends (areas of student success, student struggle, pockets of students who have excelled, pockets of students who seem to have really struggled, etc). Then, we each collect a high, medium. and low example of student work to bring to a future PLC meeting.
Together, we bring our student work to the table and analyze collective trends using our Proficiency Scale.
We create a reteaching and reassessment plan, as well as decide how we're going to continue to challenge those students who have already found success.
We repeat the process. Focusing on the plan created in 'Step F', we loop back to 'Step G.' Eventually. we bring student work back together again and look for new trends, improvements that still need to be made, or additional needs that have arose. The cycle continues until the whole class has mastered this Prioritized Learning and/or until the course comes to a close at the end of the year (or semester, in some cases).
Using and analyzing common formative assessments in this way is a research-affirmed practice. PLCs who engage in this practice consistently see higher student achievement and less of an achievement gap in their classes.
If your PLC is beginning this journey or deepening your practice and would like support, please reach out to any member of the secondary Curriculum and Instruction team. We’d love to help support your work!
This post brought to you by Heather Willman, APOSA overseeing Secondary Curriculum and Instructional Coaching
Enjoy our Blog!
Members of the Secondary C&I team weekly post useful tools, tips, and tricks to help you help students.