Designing a Successful Formative Assessment Strategy

Oct 20, 2023
Formative Assessment Strategy

Assessments play a vital role in education, providing teachers with insights into their students' progress and learning needs. Among various assessment types, formative assessment stands out as an essential tool for shaping effective teaching and fostering student growth, due to its ability to allow educators to check for understanding while the learning is happening.

Formative assessments
are ongoing, interactive evaluations that support the learning process and guide instruction in real-time. They are an integral part of effectively understanding if students are meeting grade-level standards. If they aren’t, it shows where that learning is breaking down—before it shows up on a state assessment.

Setting a solid formative assessment strategy before testing season hits will not only make life easier by understanding who may need a little extra assistance but also take some of the stress off students. Let’s explore the key steps to designing a successful formative assessment strategy in the classroom.

Set Clear Learning Objectives

Formative assessments should align closely with the learning objectives of the curriculum. Begin by defining specific and measurable learning goals for your students. These objectives will serve as the foundation for creating relevant assessment activities that gauge progress towards mastery.

Diversify Assessment Methods

Incorporating a range of assessment tools and techniques to cater to diverse learning styles and preferences is a vital component to a successful formative assessment strategy. Luckily, they don’t need to be time-consuming or difficult to accomplish. All it takes is adding a few of these ideas and committing to their use:

  1. Quizzes and Polls: Short quizzes or polls measure student understanding and provide instant feedback.
  2. Bell Ringer/Exit Tickets: At the end of a lesson, ask students to respond to a few questions related to the day's content.
  3. Think-Pair-Share: Encourage students to discuss concepts with a partner before sharing their thoughts with the class.
  4. Journal Jotting: Have students write a brief summary of what they learned in a given lesson.

Prioritize Timely Feedback

One of the most significant advantages of formative assessments is the immediate feedback it provides students. This feedback loop allows students to correct misconceptions in real-time and adjust their approach to learning. Consider using rubrics or detailed comments to guide students effectively.

Utilize Online Tools to Analyze and Adapt

Consider applying your formative assessment strategy to an online tool that can:

  • Adapt to the situation
  • Be deployed quickly and seamlessly
  • Be used with a minimal amount of effort

Doing so will not only streamline the process but save educators valuable time and resources.

Edmentum’s formative assessment and practice program, Study Island, helps educators make their instruction more effective by offering year-round, flexible formative assessment tools to quickly measure who’s getting it—and who’s not. Regardless of how learning is assessed—there’s power in the ongoing data.

Using Online Tools to Implement a Formative Assessment Strategy

Here’s how educators can use an online tool like Study Island to implement a formative assessment strategy without sacrificing time and flexibility.

Step One: Assess Knowledge with a Practice Assignment

After you’ve taught the core instruction of a specific topic or standard to your class, it’s time to dive into the first step of this three-step approach: assess what students know. While there are a few different ways to formatively assess students within the program, we’ll focus on practice assignments because of their seamless interaction with Sensei, Study Island’s personal interactive data dashboard.

Building a practice assignment within Study Island allows you to assess on either the topic you’re covering or a single academic standard that you may be focusing on that week. Because the practice content in Study Island is already built to your state standards, you can feel confident that students are being assessed on their knowledge accurately and effectively. Additionally, practice assignments make the process quick and easy with a fixed and randomized (to cut down on any cheating) 10-question session.

This webinar, 3 Steps to a Tried-and-True Formative Assessment Strategy with Study Island, dives into the how-to of this three-step process. Below is a clip to see how easy it is to create a practice assignment for your formative assessment strategy.

Step Two: Measure and Review Success

Now that you’ve assessed your students, it’s time to see who is meeting grade-level expectations and who needs additional support. Remember the interactive data dashboard, Sensei, mentioned earlier? Here’s where this feature in the program gets to shine.

Because practice assignments directly feed all their data into Sensei, measuring and reviewing your students’ results for the topic or academic standard they’re being assessed on is a breeze. With its color-coded graphics, visual cues, and intuitive charts, educators get an in-depth look at how their students performed, which is easy to interpret and simple to turn into a plan of action. It also works as a live view, meaning that you can see student scores as they come in, saving you precious time. By reviewing the trusted data within Sensei, educators can determine which students are ready to move on and which need more practice and then assign more practice right from dashboard to the students who need it.

Still not sold on the power of Sensei? In the clip below, we go into more detail breaking down how this feature makes managing your classroom data easier than ever.

Step Three: Reassess with a Group Session or Built Test

In the final step of our tried-and-true formative assessment strategy, it’s time to reassess your students’ understanding. After reteaching the topic or academic standard to the students who needed it—which could be in small groups, through extra practice in Study Island, or even a whole-class review—teachers can create a Group Session or a Built Test to easily reassess which students are mastering the topic or standard. Reassessing after reteaching is a critical step, as it gives educators the confidence that their students are prepared to ace their graded assessments, whether it’s a smaller end-of-unit exam or the championship of exams: state testing.

Using Group Sessions and Built Tests within Study Island to reassess your students allows teachers to relax with the knowledge that each of the questions used is built to state standards and can be put together quickly—keeping things accurate AND efficient. Not sure how to decide which feature to use to complete that final checkpoint with your students? In the following clip, we highlight when the best time is to use both flexible options and how to create them—both ahead of time and on the fly.

Designing a successful formative assessment strategy in the classroom requires thoughtful planning and continuous adaptation. By providing timely feedback, setting clear objectives, and utilizing online formative assessment tools, teachers can create a pathway for academic growth, leading their students towards success and lifelong learning.

Using an online tool like Study Island can support educators with formative assessments, giving them the ability to pinpoint specific gaps and misconceptions in their students’ learning as they prepare for state testing. Even better, it works seamlessly in three simple steps, without the need to revamp classroom routines every spring.

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