1. Give end-of-chapter tests, unit tests, vocabulary quizzes, etc.
2. Record the grades.
3. Return the papers.
4. Move on.
Who benefits from this summative assessment process? No one. What if, instead, you give an assessment BEFORE the unit to determine what students already know and don't know and DURING the unit to track learning progress and make teaching adjustments? This formative assessment cycle feeds into planning and instruction and has much more meaning for both teacher and students.
A couple of weeks ago, my pre-service teachers and I were discussing formative and summative assessments. I gave them a short quiz using Socrative and asked them to determine whether they would identify various assessment formats as formative or summative. Their results were mixed, which led to a meaningful conversation about what makes an assessment formative or summative. Through the discussion, my students came to realize that whether an assessment is summative or formative depends on what the teacher does afterward. Can a chapter test be formative? Absolutely, if the teacher uses the results to identify gaps in understanding and provide instruction to help students meet learning goals for the chapter. Can a pre-test be summative? You bet, if the teacher doesn't change his/her plans for instruction based on data from the test.
The beauty of formative assessments is that they can be informal and easy to implement. A formative assessment can be as simple as a ticket out the door or asking students to hold up 1, 2, or 3 fingers depending on their understanding of the lesson. Technology can make the formative assessment process even easier and provide tools for analyzing data quickly and painlessly. There are many free web tools that allow teachers to create and deliver formative assessments in just a few minutes and collect student results instantly. Keep reading to learn about a few of my favorites.
SocrativeSocrative is hands-down my favorite online assessment tool. This free web tool has lots of capability and works across devices. Teachers can create self-paced quizzes, exit tickets, and quiz games, or deliver stand-alone multiple-choice, true/false, or short answer questions. Students respond to questions using a computer, tablet, or phone. A variety of devices can be used during any given assessment. My favorite Socrative feature is the report that is generated immediately following each assessment. Each assessment generates a detailed report automatically and instantly. Teachers can download reports or have them sent via email. Learn more and get some great ideas by visiting the Socrative Garden.
Poll EverywhereAnother assessment tool I use regular (with my pre-service teachers and during professional development for in-service teachers) is Poll Everywhere, a free polling site that allows you to poll the audience with multiple-choice or open-ended questions. Students can respond via SMS, Twitter, http://pollev.com, or a private link. As you create a poll, you choose how you would like to receive responses. You can give students a few options or narrow their choices to one or two. When you display the poll, on-screen instructions will assist students with responding. Poll Everywhere saves your previous polls so you can review past results at any time. Following a poll, you can instantly generate a word cloud from responses. You also have several options for displaying your questions: embed in a blog or other website, share via Twitter or Facebook, share a live link, embed in PowerPoint, or download for Prezi.
Google FormsGoogle Forms are my personal favorite among the types of Google Docs available to Gmail users. Google Forms allows you to quickly create an assessment with a variety of question types: multiple choice, short answer, checkboxes, choose from a list, scale, and grid. You can deliver an assessment via Google Forms by sending the Form through email, sharing the link, or embedding it into a website. The ultimate feature is that Google automatically generates a spreadsheet upon creation of a Form. As soon as you create and save the Form, Google Docs adds a spreadsheet to your Docs list. Each time someone fills out the form, a new row is entered into the spreadsheet containing that individual's responses. Data within the spreadsheet can then be sorted and analyzed quickly and easily. You can also view a summary of responses with just one click, which provides percentages and circle graphs of data collected. If you're interested in using Google Forms for formative assessments, be sure to check out Flubaroo, a script that will enable Google Docs to automatically grade responses to your assessments.
Wallwisher is another great choice for informal formative assessments. Teachers create a wall, post one or many questions or prompts, and share the link with students who then post their responses to the wall as sticky notes. Teachers have the option to moderate responses, which keeps all sticky notes hidden until approved by the teacher. Sticky notes can contain text, images, video, and links. These media options allow teachers to post image or video prompts or direct students to a website. Students can also include these different types of media in their responses, allowing them to respond creatively. Wallwisher works great as an exit ticket, a warm-up activity, a status-of-the-class, or a progress check.
Each of these free web tools enables a teacher to create an assessment within just a few minutes, deliver the assessment through a variety of devices and platforms, collect data instantly, and analyze results to inform future instruction. While these are my top choices, there are many other web tools that would be a good fit for formative assessments. Please leave a comment and tell me about your favorite technology for formative assessments.