Thursday, March 31, 2016

Formative Assessment in the Classroom

For some reason, education publications that share best practices tend to be written in such a way that the practitioners need to hire a translator to interpret the written words and rent a small forklift to help tote the rather large book from place to place.

Personally, I believe that this is because companies and individuals are trying to coin phrases and put a copyright symbol on some program.

This is an unfortunate plight in our wonderful career field. Practitioners need the results of research to be made user-friendly. The teacher in the classroom and the building administrator do not have time for lengthy translations and trainings that require constant revisiting from the consultant. Instead, what is needed is an explanation of what was found, why the strategy or technique should be used and then the how.

Formative assessment is one of those tools that all of the research suggests is a must use. Unfortunately, most of the works are lengthy tombs with very little transferability to the classroom.

The most telling of the research on why we should use formative assessment is from Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black, Inside the Black Box and most recently Dr. Wiliam’s work with Siobhan Leahy has transferred this information to book form in, Embedding Formative Assessment: Practical Techniques for K-12 Classrooms. There are other authors like, Susan M. Brookhart, Performance Assessment: Showing What Students Know and Can Do and R. Stiggins, J. Arter, J. Chappuis, & S. Chappuis, Classroom Assessment for Student Learning: Doing It Right-Using It Well to look to for help with understanding the what, the why, and the how.

But my favorite is from Suzy Pepper Rollins in Learning in the Fast Lane: 8 Ways to Put All Students on the Road to Academic Success (You can also listen to Suzy on my podcast Teaching Learning Leading K12 ). Her book is short, to the point, and completely user friendly. A teacher or building administrator could pick up this book, read the section on formative assessment and put it in place in lesson plans tonight for use tomorrow in the classroom.

I recently started a three part series of using Formative Assessment in the Classroom on my audio podcast. Follow the links. In these episodes I am focused on the why, the what, and the how.

Stop by and listen. Episode 93 is part one, Episode 94 is part 2 and Episode 95 will be the conclusion- part 3. My focus is to make it usable and understandable.

I am a perfect example of a big reason why we should use formative assessment. I was a good kid. I did my work, I didn’t cause trouble, and I was quiet. And I really didn’t want to be called upon to answer questions or to come to the board and show my work. I developed a routine that worked amazingly on many of my teachers, not in just one year but in many. I barely ever was called upon. You know why, most of our colleagues, not you right?- call upon those kids who know the answers and those who might start causing issues if we leave them alone for too long.

Therefore, if I looked at the teacher, kept being good, didn’t get off task, did my work, didn’t talk or get up when I shouldn’t I didn’t get called upon. I was good at this.

In many of my classes, I disappeared into the seats and the linoleum. Nothing against my teachers, I was trying to do this.

Unfortunately, it meant that the classroom teachers didn’t know what I knew or didn’t understand about the content unless they had a test or a graded quiz. By the time many of those opportunities came along, it was already too late. I either completely was lost or I had created my own understanding of the content and needed a wrecking ball to correct my misunderstandings.

Here is my working definition of formative assessment:

Formative assessment is the purposeful use of activities that will not be graded that will reveal to the teacher what the kids know and don’t know. The results of these activities will be used to adjust instruction to help the kids develop a better understanding, overcome confusion, or move on because they already get it.

In my audio podcast three part series I explain the why (students like me and others), the what, and the how (part three)-coming soon.

I encourage you to listen in.

Each episode is an easy length to listen to - 12-20 minutes.

I’m on iTunes if you have a smartphone and Stitcher if you have an Android.

You can also go straight to my host site at Podbean (Teaching Learning Leading K12)

Or you can go to the link on this blog page or the podcast player to listen right now at your desktop workstation.

Formative assessment is an awesome tool that will help you change your instruction to address the needs of the kids. It's time to start putting it in action.

Thanks for reading and listening.

Have a great day!