Formative Assessment

/ / Digital Literacy

The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:

  • help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
  • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately

Formative assessments are generally low stakes, which means that they have low or no point value. Examples of formative assessments include asking students to:

    • draw a concept map in class to represent their understanding of a topic
    • submit one or two sentences identifying the main point of a lecture
    • turn in a research proposal for early feedback

If technology is limited at your school Signal Pinch Cards are a great quick response for Formative Assessments. Made quickly on card stock and laminated for sustainability they should stay handy at a student’s desk all year. These work well when there is a not an intentional formative assessment planned. A teacher sees the opportunity to check for understanding and asks students to turn the card to the appropriate section and pinch their thumb and index finger on the card at the specific spot. The ABCD side is for multiple choice questions; the TRUE FALSE side for True False questions; The RED, YELLOW, GREEN side is for help, unsure, or got it; and the YES/NO side for simple yes no questions. The teacher can simply look out at the Pinch Cards students are holding up for a quick check for understanding. Decisions can be made instantly regarding next steps for instruction. These are also useful for teachers when administrators come in for a walkthrough. It gives teachers an opportunity to showcase their ability to check for understanding at impromptu teachable moments.    


There are many available technology tools to use for Formative Assessment as well.
  • Backchannels are a great tool for this and one of our favorites is Todays Meet. This backchannel is the conversation that goes on alongside the primary activity, presentation, or discussion. Todays Meet helps harness the backchannel and turn it into a platform that can enable new activities and discussions, extend conversations beyond the classroom, and give all students a voice. Embracing the backchannel can turn it from distraction to engagement. Participants can learn from each other and share their insights, improving participation and deepening learning. Todays Meet enables instant formative assessment, feedback, and much more. Designed for teachers, Todays Meet takes great care to respect the needs and privacy of students while giving educators the tools for success. Students join fast, easy to start rooms with no registration, and can immediately start powerful conversations that augment the traditional classroom.
  • Another technology tool for Formative Assessment is Poll Everywhere.  This web based app is an audience response system that uses mobile phones, twitter, and the web. Responses are displayed in real-time on gorgeous charts in PowerPoint, Keynote, and more. Most people tune out of a PowerPoint presentation within ten minutes. Poll Everywhere re-engages your audience via a PowerPoint plug-in from Poll Everywhere.