Delivering formative assessments is made easier with classroom technology tools

As education policy moves away from the much-maligned No Child Left Behind and toward new legislation focusing on learning outcomes, technology-enabled formative assessments are moving to the foreground as a way to gauge student learning in real time.

Assessments have long presented a challenge for educators in their various forms and frequency. Under the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the summative assessment pressure of NCLB eases and formative assessments become more important.

Research indicates formative assessments still deliver needed data to educators, who, when equipped to properly interpret and use data, can adjust their instruction depending on students’ needs.

From the parent perspective, such assessments can deliver near-immediate information about how children are learning and achieving, said Marty Creel, Discovery Education’s Chief Academic Officer and previously head of curriculum at Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. This doesn’t mean summative assessments aren’t necessary–because they’re used at the post-secondary level, students, especially those in high school, do need experience with summative assessments.

“We need a combination of one-demand performance–summative assessments–and formative assessments, which are small building blocks of understanding along the way,” Creel said.

Teachers say formative assessments help them instantly take stock of what students have and haven’t gleaned from a lesson or class activity–meaning teachers can adjust their instruction or review materials if short formative assessment results indicate a need to do so.

Others note that technology enables a wide array of formative assessments, though those methods were infrequently used under NCLB.

“We see more districts turning to formative assessments as their way of measuring student progress, instead of relying on end-of-course exams–they’re looking at district-wide formative assessments,” Creel said. “[Districts] are really looking to publishers to help them with that. They’re looking for things that don’t feel like a test, and looking for experiences that engage students and capture their understanding in a unique way.”

Technology offers a number of different ways to deliver formative assessments, including formative assessments as standalone tools and those embedded in learning software. Below are a handful of different tools and resources for formative assessments (ed note: these tools have not been endorsed or reviewed by eSM staff):

Using Kahoot, educators can create learning games from a series of multiple choice questions to assess student understanding. They can add videos, images and diagrams.

Discovery Education’s Math Techbook offers a digital coach to help students work through the Techbook’s practice section. Students receive targeted feedback if they don’t solve a problem correctly.

Pear Deck offers interactive slideshows that help educators assess and engage student knowledge as they focus on inquiry and self-motivation.

Socrative is an instant response tool designed for the K-12 environment. Up to 50 students can participate at one time.

Lightsail offers embedded, adaptive assessments, giving individual readers customized library lists and reading lists that are updated based on their reading assessments.

Through Zaption‘s interactive video lessons, educators can track students’ responses to assess understanding and adjust instruction accordingly.

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Laura Ascione

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