Friday, December 7, 2012

Formative Assessment & Feedback

For all of the PD days that I've had, the most beneficial to me have always been about how to provide the right types of formative assessments, and how to assess them so as to increase students learning instead of extinguish it. What I mean is this.....

A student completes a project task, whether a brief writing or a few mathematical problems, and they turn it in. As a teacher, I look at it, make a few marks, say "good!" a time or two and put a score at the top. 2.5 and circle it. Then, I write some feedback on the bottom or back of the page explaining my thoughts and how they could improve. Does a student read it? Likely not. They've seen their score, accepted it and are ready to move on. The learning has extinguished.

This is not a new thought or story by any means, but it is a valuable one to consider. With my most recent project, Cyrano's Funk, I've gone through the various formative assessments (See previous post for more information!) and all I wrote were the comments.  Now, I kept track of what level of mastery I believed they were demonstrating, in my own grading spreadsheet, but I never shared that information with them. The next time I did a check-in with the students (a week after the first), I read through their work from the first check-in and they had almost all made corrections and improvements, AND it had helped their writings for that second check in. I can only imagine how good those second submissions could have been if I had seen the students improvements earlier and given even more suggestions before they started their second set of literary analysis compositions.

The key to feedback is making sure that it is timely and specific. (Don't believe me? Read this: Focus on Effectiveness) If a student has just turned in work to you, I don't care that your favorite TV show is on, or that you are feeling a bit sleepy, make sure you grade that work. Especially if you are in a smaller PBL atmosphere, this is easier to comply with (though I had 11 of my 15 students turn something in to me today, so I'm about to be up all night and super cranky tomorrow, but that's another story). If you aren't in a small atmosphere, then try to go through each item and assess it on only ONE thing. That is where the specificity comes in. I don't care that they misused the semi-colon, what I'm providing feedback on is their use of examples in the Columbian Exchange, and that is what I will provide feedback on. The rest can wait. OR even better, the rest can be peer-assessed.

Using peers as a source of assessment is a genius idea. Too often, we leave this method for the English classroom and have them "peer edit for grammar". What a shame! Students can offer such valuable insight to one another and speak it in relatable terms so that both students end up benefiting. We are starting a historical approach to a project in the coming weeks and I fully intend on utilizing students in peer-groups to assess one another multiple times before I even see their product. Now when doing this, you need to make sure that your feedback has a specific focus. Every time the students peer-assess one another, you should have them look for one or two main ideas to give feedback on. When I go over students work, I can see the feedback that they have been provided, and I can see how the student adapted (I can see their learning, how fun is that?!). I can then assess their

For more information on types of feedback, make sure to check out this article Types of Feedback and Their Purposes.