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Formative Assessments

Nicole Messier, CATE Instructional Designer
February 4th, 2022

WHAT? Heading link

Formative assessments occur before, during, and after a class session and data collected is used to inform improvements to teaching practices and/or student learning and engagement.

  • Formative assessments are beneficial to instructors by helping them to understand students’ prior knowledge and skills, students’ current level of engagement with the course materials, and how to support students in their progression to achieve the learning objectives.
  • Formative assessments are beneficial to students by providing them with immediate feedback on their learning as well as opportunities to practice metacognition, which is an awareness of one’s own knowledge and thinking processes as well as an ability to self-monitor one’s learning path (e.g., self-assessment of learning) and adapt or make changes to one’s learning behaviors (e.g., goal setting).

Formative assessments can be viewed through two broad assessment strategies: assessments for learning and assessments as learning.

  • Assessment for learning (AfL) provides the instructor an opportunity to adapt their teaching practices to support current students’ needs through the collection of data as well as provide practice, feedback, and interaction with the students.
  • Assessment as learning (AaL) provides student ownership of learning by utilizing evidence-based learning strategies, promoting self-regulation, and providing opportunities for reflective learning.
Formative Assessment

 

 

Want to learn more about these assessment strategies? Please visit the Resources Section – CATE website to review resources, teaching guides, and more.

Non-Graded Formative Assessments (AfL & AaL)

Non-graded formative assessments can be used to examine current students’ learning and provide an opportunity for students to self-check their learning.

  • Polling or survey questions before, during, or after class using EdTech tools like Acadly or iClicker or other apps
    • Questions to gauge understanding of content in readings and lectures:
      • Before class, questions can provide students with an opportunity to self-assess their learning as well as provide instructors with information for adapting their instruction.
      • During class, questions can provide a platform for discussion, interaction, and feedback.
      • After class, questions can provide students with opportunities to reflect, self-assess, and use retrieval practice.
  • Video questions using EdTech tools like Panopto or Echo360.
    • Questions to gauge understanding of content in the video.
  •  In-class activities (on-campus, hybrid, synchronous online, or synchronous distributed):
    • Think-pair-share – asking students to turn to their neighbor in class or small breakout groups in an online discussion and share their thoughts, ideas, or answers to a topic or question.
    • Muddiest point – asking students to identify a topic or theme that is unclear, or that they do not have confidence in their knowledge yet.
    • Three-minute reflection – asking students to pause and reflect on what they have learned during class (e.g., shared in a survey tool like Google Form, or in a discussion tool like Acadly).
  • Asynchronous online sharing and brainstorming using Blackboard discussion boards or EdTech tools like Jamboard or Padlet.

Polling and video questions can be designed as assessment for learning (AfL) by gathering data for instructors to adapt their lectures and learning activities to meet students where they are or to provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning. In-class activities such as think-pair-share and muddiest point or asynchronous sharing can be designed as assessment as learning (AaL) by providing opportunities for students to self-assess their learning and progress.

Graded Formative Assessments (AfL & AaL)

Just like non-graded formative assessments, graded formative assessments can be used to examine current students’ learning and provide an opportunity for students to gauge their learning. Graded formative assessments should provide students with opportunities to practice skills, apply knowledge, and self-assess their learning.

  •  In-class graded work
    • One-minute essay – asking students to write down their thoughts on a topic at the end of a lecture.
    • Concept map – asking students to create a diagram showing relationships between concepts.
  • Written assignments
    • Authentic assessments – an assessment that involves a real-world task or application of knowledge instead of a traditional paper.
    • Reflections, journals, self-assessment of previous work
  • Discussion forums – academic discussions focused on a topic or question.
  • Group work or peer review
  •  Video questions using EdTech tools like Panopto or Echo360.
  • Quizzes

Formative assessments like in-class work, written assignments, discussion forums, and group work can be graded with a rubric to provide individualized feedback to students. Video questions using EdTech tools like Panopto or Echo360 and quizzes using Blackboard Tests, Pools, and Surveys can be automatically graded with immediate feedback provided to students.

WHY? Heading link

Why develop formative assessments in your course?

Since the late 90s, Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam have been challenging the view that summative assessment is the best way to measure learning and support student success. Black and Wiliam’s research on formative assessment and student achievement started the shift from a summative focus to a more balanced view of assessment for student success.

Studies have shown that students who participate in formative assessments have improved overall performance and higher scores than students who do not participate in the formative assessments (Robertson, 2019).

Impact on Students

Students who participate in formative assessments develop and improve several essential skills (Koka, 2017) including:

  • Communication skills
  • Collaboration skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Perception
  • Memory
  • Metacognition
  • Self-regulation skills

Student involvement, self-reflection, and open communication between faculty and students during formative assessments are vital to student success (Koka, 2017). Effective formative assessments include (Black, 2009):

  • “Clarifying and sharing learning intentions and criteria for success,
  • Engineering effective classroom discussions and other learning tasks that elicit evidence of student understanding,
  • Providing feedback that moves students forward,
  • Activating students as instructional resources for one another,
  • Activating students as the owners of their own learning.”

Use of EdTech Tools

Studies have shown that using EdTech tools for formative assessments improves the immediacy of scores and feedback to students. Student wait time and faculty workload are dramatically reduced by the utilization of EdTech tools (Robertson, 2019). The use of EdTech tools for formative assessments also improves student satisfaction, enjoyment, and engagement (Grier, 2021; Mdlalose, 2021). EdTech tools can be used for synchronous and asynchronous formative assessments; however, synchronous formative assessments can allow the instructor to clarify misconceptions and help foster more engagement during discussions to create a learning community (Mdlalose, 2021).

In a study and literature review by Robertson and Humphrey (2019), they determined elements needed for formative assessment tools to be effective, including timeliness of feedback, elaborative feedback from the instructor, personalized feedback for students, reusability (reusing existing questions or content), accessibility (does the use of the tool exclude some students), interface design (how easy it is to implement), interaction (does it improve the frequency of interactions between student and instructor), and cost (funded by the institution or personal expense). These elements should be taken into consideration as you determine which EdTech tool(s) to use for formative assessments.

Feedback & Formative Assessments

A critical component of any formative assessment is the timeliness of feedback. Studies have shown that it is the immediacy of feedback that is most beneficial to student learning (Robertson, 2019). As you begin to design formative assessments or select an EdTech tool to develop a formative assessment, make sure to determine how you will provide feedback to students.

 

Reflect on the following questions regarding feedback and formative assessments:

  • How will you ensure that feedback to students is timely?
  • How will you design multiple opportunities for feedback interactions with you and/or among peers?
  • How will you distribute feedback interactions throughout the course?
  • How will you provide personalized feedback to students?

Want to learn more about grading and feedback? Please visit the Resources Section – CATE website to review resources, teaching guides, and more.

HOW? Heading link

How do you start designing formative assessments?

First, you can review your course outcomes and learning objectives to ensure alignment of the formative assessments developed. Formative assessments can help measure student achievement of learning objectives as well as provide students with actionable feedback and the instructor with data to make decisions on current teaching and instruction practices.

So how do you determine what type of formative assessment to design? Or the frequency and distribution of formative assessments in your course? Let’s dive into some of the elements that might impact your design decisions, including class size, discipline, modality, and EdTech tools.

Class Size

Formative assessments can be designed and implemented in any course size from small seminar courses to large lecture courses. The size of the class will influence the decisions that instructors make regarding the use of EdTech tools to deliver formative assessments.

Small Class Size

  • May allow for more formative assessments distributed throughout the course.
  • May allow for more immediacy of feedback and descriptive, personalized, or dialogic feedback from the instructor.

Large Class Size

  • May require instructors to utilize EdTech tools to deliver formative assessments that are distributed throughout the course.
  • May require instructors to utilize EdTech tools to deliver timely, consistent, and helpful feedback to students.

Discipline

Formative assessments can be implemented in any type of course or program. A few considerations when developing formative assessments:

  • To understand students’ prior knowledge and skills.
  • As learning for students to reflect and self-regulate their learning.
  • To measure achievement of learning objectives.
  • To collect data to make decisions about teaching and instruction.

In undergraduate general education coursework, instructors should consider using formative assessments to understand student goals and motivations for taking a course and how to support their goals (future learning and connection to future career) and sustain their engagement in a course that may not be directly or obviously related to the major program of study. In major coursework, instructors might want to consider using formative assessments to reinforce knowledge and practice skills needed for summative assessments and external accreditation or licensure exams.

Modality

The modality of your course will influence the planning and delivery of formative assessments. Formative assessments can be designed for both synchronous and asynchronous delivery for any course modality.

Synchronous formative assessments (during scheduled classes) can be administered in on-campus, online synchronous, hybrid, and synchronous distributed courses. For example, creating in-class polls or surveys using an EdTech tool like Acadly and  iClickers.

Asynchronous formative assessments (outside of scheduled classes) can be administered in any type of course; however, asynchronous formative assessments are vital for online asynchronous courses to measure and reinforce learning. For example, creating weekly or unit quizzes in Blackboard using the Tests, Pools, and Surveys to reinforce student learning of the content.

Formative Assessment Tools

EdTech tools can help to reduce faculty workload by providing a delivery system that reaches students before, during, and/or after class sessions

Below are EdTech tools that are available to UIC faculty to create and/or grade formative assessments for and as learning.

GETTING STARTED Heading link

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES Heading link

REFERENCES Heading link