Friday, July 14, 2017

Formative Assessment from a Student Perspective

Yesterday, I posted the first part of a book review on Transformative Assessment by Popham.  As I said then, I'm only halfway through the book, but Chapter 4 really deserved its own post.

Popham believes in 4 levels of Formative Assessment:
   - Level 1: Teachers' Instructional Adjustments
   - Level 2: Students' Instructional Adjustments
   - Level 3: Classroom Climate Shift
   - Level 4: Schoolwide Implementation

So far, I've only read about Level 1 and Level 2 assessments.  Level 1 assessment is what we are probably most familiar with - how formative assessment techniques can help teachers change or alter their instructional methodologies in order to improve student learning.  Level 2, though, is pretty powerful as well.  In fact, I originally planned to post about Level 2 assessment on yesterday's post, but then decided it was so powerful that it deserved a post all of its own. :)

According to Popham:
"Formative Assessment exists for exactly one reason:  to enhance students' learning"
Throughout this book, I keep thinking, "Wow! I've never thought of it like that!" and the quote above is just another example.  If my goal is to enhance student learning then obviously I'm going to do what I can do from a teacher / instruction standpoint, but I also need to make sure that I am doing all I can do to empower my students to take control of their learning.  To do this, Popham argues that students need to be taught how to use formative assessment data to make their own personal instructional adjustments in their learning tactics in order to maximize the effectiveness of those tactics.

Again, a few quotes from Chapter 4 of the book followed by my own thoughts:

  • On student adjustments:  (Paraphrased) If one of the goals of FA is for students to play an active role in making sound decisions on how / if / when to adjust their learning techniques in order to be more successful, then students must know the end goal *and* the standards by which they will be judged. 
    • Prior to this book, I've never really thought about how students can use FA data to help themselves as learners.  Like most teachers, I've always heard FA described more from the perspective of "informing instruction", as in letting teachers know the level of mastery of their students.  However, based on this book, I am in the process of redefining my thoughts on FA.  For some reason, when I read this part of the book, I kept envisioning a student behind the wheel of a boat headed to shore.  In order for the student to be able to plot a course correction, they have to know: 1) where they are going / headed (aka the end goal) and 2) they have to know how far off the mark they are.  This illustration helps me visualize what Popham is referring to, but it's also rather convicting to me.  I can't say that I'm very good about always letting students know explicitly either one of these items. This really gives me a lot to ponder, both figuring out how to be better at sharing the end goal with students and by providing them clear guidelines for mastery.  

  • On orientation of students:  "Teachers who choose to install Level 2 formative assessment in their classrooms must make a major commitment to readying their students to get the most out of this approach."
    • As a student, I don't recall many teachers really talking about how to learn and definitely not about how to determine which learning techniques were best for me and how to adjust those techniques.  As a teacher, I know I have not had that discussion with my students, so I need to be more explicit this year in explaining to my students the WHY behind formative assessment activities, not just from a teacher standpoint, but from a student standpoint as well.  For example, one activity that I do early on in the year is a card sort where each group is given a set of 20 or so scenarios and asked to read the problem and determine the type of sampling method that is described.  Due to the nature of the activity, I probably will not know whether the group is "right or wrong" on every single card, BUT, a student can use that activity to help them decide personally if they know the sampling methods or whether they need to adjust their study techniques to better differentiate between the various methods, which is the very definition of Level 2 formative assessment.

  • On turnaround time:  "Having promised to get such building-block assessment information to students, a Level 2 formative assessment teacher must deliver this information to students as soon as possible after assessing those students."
    • Whew... talk about something easier said than done! :)  Turn-around time is the bane of my existence.  With class sizes of 30+, it can be very difficult to provide quality feedback on a regular basis and I'll be honest that I am not a huge fan of MC items for formative assessment.  Some activities I use, like the cards described above, are fairly easy in terms of turn-around time because students know immediately how they are doing.  This is something I need to work on this year.  In the book, they also talk about ways to provide optional items for students to use to self-monitor, such as answer keys available, practice quizzes / tests, etc.

  • On student choice: "The role of the teacher here is to set forth suggestions so students will be able to arrive at better choices.  As always, if students choose not to adopt the teacher's suggestions regarding learning tactics, then the teacher simply swallows hard and moves forward."
    • I think this will be the hardest part of implementing Level 2 formative assessment, but the most necessary.  The key thing is that students will need to buy into the benefits of FA and to assume responsibility for learning how they learn best.  The author emphasizes that it has to be student choice in adjusting their learning tactics and we have to allow them the autonomy to make that choice (or not).  In order for our students to become independent, effective learners, we have to allow them that freedom.

I really enjoyed this chapter... only 3 more to go! :)

2 comments:

Beth Ferguson said...

This sounds like a great book! I might have to read it too.

Your thoughts on Level 2 are affirming. In that last year, I used 5 question quizzes almost daily so that students would be able to track their own understanding. I know you aren't a fan of MC, but I found those worked well for this purpose. I used other types of questions on class quizzes and gave more feedback on those. The daily 5 MC questions served the purpose of helping students realize what they needed to work on - what concepts they might still need to review.

The immediate feedback from Google Forms provided students only that they were right or wrong. Students were encouraged to use that data to ask questions, to attend tutoring sessions as needed. I used the instant data to know what questions to review in class. It worked well.

I look forward to hearing how you implement Level 2 formative assessments.

Yelena Melnichenko said...

I love your blog posts. Gives me great insight. I use a lot of web tools to help with that immediate or timely feedback and it's not always mc. Like the cards you mentioned, I would create a socrative question for each card and the choices would be the different sampling methods. As students are working together, they input the answers. Then we look at the data together to see if there are misconceptions. I also use goformative because students can draw and write their responses, and I can see them in real life. I have also started looking into how student can self assess. I ce across this from Canada, interesting read. https://curriculum.gov.mt/en/Assessment/Assessment-of-Learning/Documents/assessment_of_for_as_learning.pdf Looking forward to reading more of your posts on this topic!