Check out this timely Edutopia article that was sent to me this week!Effective Use of On-the-Spot (a.k.a. Formative) Assessments
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In this Edutopia article, Vicki Davis describes a telling moment as she taught binary numbers to her students (adding ones and zeroes like a computer). This topic looks harder than it is, says Davis, and she’s found that if she teaches students to count by binary numbers, they usually get it. After a few minutes of this, two students piped up, “We’ve got this, it’s easy. Can we move on?” Davis checked with the rest of the class: “Do you have this?” They all vigorously nodded their heads in assent.
“My teacher instinct said that everyone knew it,” says Davis, “but I decided to experiment. So I wrote a problem on the board. Students were already logged into Socrative, and a box opened on their screens. Each student typed in his or her answer to the problem. They clicked enter, and all their answers appeared on my screen beside the name of each student.” Davis was shocked to see that only two students had the correct answer – the two students who had impatiently asked her to move on. Not one of the students who confidently nodded that they understood was able to answer the problem correctly.
Davis retaught the concept, had students try another problem in Socrative, and the results improved a little. She worked another slightly different problem and checked in, and more students got it. Ten minutes later, the entire class had mastered binary numbers.
Is this checking-for-understanding and reteaching process too time-consuming to be a realistic option, given the pressure to cover the curriculum? Not at all, says Davis: “It didn’t take me longer to teach binary numbers. You see, I don’t move past binary numbers until all of my students are scoring 90 percent or higher. And as a result of this experience, I taught binary numbers and all of the accompanying standards in three days instead of my usual five, and no one had to come for after-school tutoring.”
The key, she says, is an anonymous all-class assessment system that allows the teacher to see what’s really going on in students’ minds without “the embarrassment of public hand-raising.” She recommends the following real-time checking-for-understanding systems:
- Socrative – It can be used on the fly, for quick quizzes, or for tests that count, and also works with competitive games like Space Race: http://www.socrative.com
- Kahoot – This program allows teachers to create quizzes, flashcards, and review games, with students using computers, cell phones, or other devices: https://getkahoot.com
- Zaption – This tool can embed questions within a flipped video, not allowing students to continue till they’ve answered each one correctly: https://www.zaption.com
- Backchannel chat tools – These are live chats that accompany class discussions and allow teachers to create exit ticket activities. One example: http://www.chatzy.com
- Plickers – Each student holds up a uniqueQR card, with its orientation signaling their response to a 4-choice question, and the teacher’s smartphone reads and instantly tabulates individual and all-class responses: https://www.plickers.com.
“Test scores should never be a surprise,” concludes Davis. “You don’t need to be a mind reader. You just need a formative assessment toolbox, and you need to use it every day.”
“5 Fantastic, Fast, Formative Assessment Tools” by Vicki Davis in Edutopia, January 15, 2015, http://bit.ly/1xUUm0J