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Formative assessment is versatile--teachers can turn almost any sort of assignment into a type of digital formative assessment.

Why digital formative assessment is critical in today’s classrooms

Formative assessment is versatile--teachers can use almost any sort of assignment as a formative assessment

The accelerated digitization of today’s classroom impacts every aspect of instruction–from attendance to summative assessment and everything in between. As educators have shifted to the hybrid environment, they have had to make significant changes in the way they approach formative assessment.

Formative assessment is a wide-encompassing term that allows teachers to monitor student progress. In person, this can mean a variety of things like thumbs up/thumbs down, class review games, exit tickets, science activities, and more. As classrooms moved to an online or digital format, the approach to formative assessment had to be considerably changed to meet the needs of a digital landscape.

Digital Formative Assessment Programs

Digital formative assessment programs that were once a luxury are now a necessity in the hybrid classroom. However, the great thing about formative assessment is its versatility: teachers can use almost any sort of assignment as a formative assessment.  And with the increased access to educational tech tools, teachers have a variety of options when it comes to online formative assessment.

This digitization provides centralized, actionable data like never before. Previously, teachers had to manually score individual responses or use class generalizations to make instructional decisions. Now, they have access to immediate results that provide real-time insight into individual and class needs.

Game-Like Formative Programs

“Game-like” formative assessment programs (like Kahoot!, Blooket and Quizziz) provide great benefits to both teachers and students. Students are highly engaged by the trivia-like format–it provides audio and visual entertainment and a chance to compete and interact with classmates while also providing immediate feedback. Teachers receive reports from each activity, which can then be used to identify individual student and class trends and update lesson plans to address student needs accordingly.

Formative Platforms

Formative assessment platforms bring another aspect to digital formative assessment. Digital formative programs, like Formative and Seesaw, give teachers a new set of tools to encourage digital engagement. These platforms often include additional question types that give teachers a better understanding of where students may need additional help.

Question types may include whiteboard questions where students can show their work or video responses that can serve as proxies for in-person short answer or performance tasks. These expanded response options give teachers the ability to review a student’s cognitive process asynchronously so they can identify misconceptions and re-teach opportunities.

Product Features

The versatility of formative assessments means teachers can leverage the features of existing core or supplemental digital resources to aid in formative assessment. Literacy programs like Raz-Plus include recording features that allow students to record themselves as they read out loud. This is a useful feature that has endless possibilities. Teachers can use it as a literal check-in on reading, but they could also use the recording feature to engage students in summarizing texts, reflecting on the material, and displaying their comprehension. Additionally, digital running records and highlighting and stamping features provide a gateway into students’ learning that helps teachers individualize instruction and identify gaps during remote and hybrid learning.

Instructional Benefits

Each of these types of digital formative assessment provides teachers with concrete data to guide instruction. The data collection and output reflect a documentation improvement for teachers. Previous forms of formative assessment required a lot of manual grading or generalized insight into class performance. The data from digital formative assessment is actionable and can aid teachers in targeted individual intervention or provide insight for topics that may require a whole class re-teach. This tangible output increases the significance of formative assessment by ensuring all interactions within the classroom are geared toward student improvement by giving teachers data to drive instruction in the middle of a unit or lesson (Dyer, 2016; Andersson & Palm, 2017).

Digital formative assessments are beneficial to students as well. The variety of assessment options provides students with different learning styles an opportunity to display their knowledge in an authentic way. Automatic and digital scoring and reporting provide in-the-moment data to teachers, ensuring students receive more personalized instruction and intervention. Additionally, this instruction often more accurately addresses their needs because digital formative assessments provide an engaging platform for demonstrating student comprehension – leading to more accurate representations of their knowledge and skills. Digital formative assessments have great potential in helping teachers and students address interrupted learning in a powerful way.

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