The Early Warning Radar System: Meaningful, targeted, and responsive formative assessment that busy teachers can actually use
By definition, formative assessment is supposed to provide data that teachers use to identify needs, modify instruction, and provide support.
Formative assessment refers to a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course. Formative assessments help teachers identify concepts that students are struggling to understand, skills they are having difficulty acquiring, or learning standards they have not yet achieved so that adjustments can be made to lessons, instructional techniques, and academic support. (Glossary of Education Reform)
But how many teachers actually do this on a regular basis? How many teachers can? I'm not talking about a token event that occurs just every now and then. I'm talking about consistent formative assessment that is conducted throughout the year and across the entire curriculum of a course. That proposition takes a lot of time, and time isn't something that teachers have in great abundance. Nonetheless, I am here to report that, with the right tools, consistent and comprehensive formative assessment can not only be done, but it can be fun and motivating as well.
The tools I'm going to discuss in this post include: Google Classroom, Kahoot!, and Google Email. Let's get started.
To implement this system, you will need to use Google Classroom to post comprehensive lesson plans, complete with objectives and instructions, as well as links and attachments for any required resources. It is important to understand that the "Assignment" is the best option for a lesson plan, as it can be associated with a Google Calendar date. (Although it will appear as a "due date," which isn't necessarily ideal.) It is also important to note that you can quickly obtain and copy a URL that will send students to a specific Google Assignment post (i.e. lesson plan). More on that later.
Anyone who knows me or who follows my blog knows how much I love Kahoot. I have developed a Kahoot for virtually every concept I teach. (I won't just have a big Kahoot for a unit review. Rather, if a unit has eight concepts, then that unit will have eight Kahoots.)
I therefore use a Kahoot to provide a quick check-in at the end of each topic. I usually run my Kahoots at the end of a class or at the beginning of the next class. They take about 15 to 20 minutes, and they provide both the students and the teacher with excellent and immediate formative feedback. They are also well designed to allow the teacher to provide timely, targeted remediation on any points of confusion revealed by the check-in. After the results for a given question have been revealed, the teacher can even expand an image that may have been used in that question in order to examine the issue before moving onto the next question.
At the end of the Kahoot, the teacher can download a comprehensive spreadsheet of the class results. For this reason, it is imperative that students sign in using their real names. I make a habit of downloading the Kahoot results, and then quickly seeing who might have failed the Kahoot. Anyone who failed a given Kahoot will receive an Early Warning Radar Bulletin from Google Email.
An email can be sent out from within the Google Classroom, or from with Google Mail. I simply copy, paste, and modify a version of the email presented below, and send it out to anyone who failed the Kahoot. If the circumstances warrant it, I might also carbon copy the parents. I've also been known to send out motivational emails to students (and, at times, their parents) who demonstrate exceptional brilliance within a Kahoot. I should point out that the email will contain live links back to the lesson plan that resides within Google Classroom. If you recall, that lesson plan will contain attachments to any resources associated with the lesson.
As I have often pointed out, setting up technical infrastructures such as Google Classroom lessons and Kahoot check-ins do indeed require a lot of time up front. However, the dividends they pay are great, and the teacher will get to draw those dividends for years to come. After that, this outstanding form of formative feedback, timely remediation, and student/parent communication can become a practical, realistic, and regular part of a teacher's program.
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.
Early Warning Radar Bulletin
If you are receiving this email it is because our recent Kahoot check-in indicates that you could benefit from reviewing the material on consumer and producer surplus, socially optimal outcome, and market intervention (price ceilings and price floors).
I'm going to suggest that you review this material at your earliest convenience, and then try doing the Market Intervention Quiz in the Mastery Learning Lab. [Unit #1: Economic Theory & Consumer Behaviour --> The Mechanics of the Market System --> Market Intervention Quiz].
Formative Assessment Definition - The Glossary of Education Reform." 29 Apr. 2014, http://edglossary.org/formative-assessment/. Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.
I find myself raving more and more about Kahoot to my colleagues these days, so I thought I would take a moment to help spread the word about this incredible online educational app.
Kahoot is essentially an online, interactive game that can be created and launched by anyone who signs up for a free account at Create.Kahoot.it.
These games proceed by broadcasting a sign-up screen, which invites participants (i.e. students) to join the game by browsing to www.kahoot.it, and then entering a unique PIN number (which is generated each time a Kahoot is launched). The game begins when the game host (i.e. the teacher) decides to start the game. The host and the players can see the names of everyone who has signed up for the game, although participants have the freedom of entering any name they might wish. (I should add that the game host can kick out any participant who decides to enter using some sort of naughty or offensive name.)
Games are essentially comprised of multiple choice questions featuring a question and four associated answer options. One or more answer options can be designated as correct by the game designer. Each game can feature an identifying image or video, and each question therein can also feature its own unique image or video.
Once the game is launched, students have a brief moment to read each question before the answer options are displayed. Once the answers are displayed, the players have a certain amount of time (designated by the game designer) to select the correct option. Answer options are coded by both colour and shape. Students thus click on the colour and shape associated with the answer they believe to be correct. All students ever see on their own device screens are the four colours and shapes.
Each question finishes once the time designated for the question expires, or when all players have answered the question - whichever comes first. At that time, a bar graph displaying the number of players who chose each answer is presented. In addition, this graph indicates which of the four answers was correct. After that, a scoreboard showing the top five scores and their associated player usernames is displayed. The game then proceeds with the next question, and it carries on in that order until all questions have been answered. I should point out that there is a set of options that are selected at the outset of each game, and these include the option to randomize the questions.
So then, why am I loving Kahoot so much right now? Well, let me tell you...
1. With Kahoot's newly refined interface, these little games are lightning fast to build and launch. (After all, if a given tool, technology, or approach isn't firmly grounded within the reality of a teacher's tight time constraints, then it simply won't be used.) Kahoot's new game creator interface is slick, intuitive, and highly responsive. In fact, I would hazard a guess that I could build a brand new, ten-question Kahoot on almost any topic in about 15 minutes. Moreover, entire Kahoot games, as well as individual Kahoot questions, are very easy to duplicate and then modify. (Indeed, duplication and modification of questions is a key feature that makes Kahoots so fast to build.)
2. Kids love playing Kahoot! My students beg to play Kahoot every class. The game is fun, fast-paced, and is designed to engage each and every student in real time. ALL students (not just the high achievers) compete in a safe, anonymous environment. Only the top five scorers are revealed after each question. (Low scorers don't need to worry about being embarrassed.)
3. Kahoots are an excellent tool for formative assessment. The students and the teacher immediately learn whether the class is mastering or struggling with certain material. Moreover, the teacher can actually download and save comprehensive results for the entire class after each game. (See detailed directions on how to download full class results from a Kahoot.) I have even integrated Kahoot results within my formative feedback and my parent communication. (See: Early Warning Radar.)
4. Finally, I just discovered (through pure experimentation) that the Logitech presenter that I use to remotely operate my PowerPoints and Google Slide presentations will also work with Kahoot! This means that teachers are no longer tethered to their computers while hosting a Kahoot, and are thus free to walk around amongst their students during the game.
Tip: Use this feature to keep a vigilant watch on your students as they are playing Kahoot. Students are quick to discover that they can sign in using fake names, and even sign in as other students in the classroom. Ask your students to have only one tab open while playing Kahoot. (Otherwise a single student can log in and play as several other students in the class. The imposter student simply needs to open a new tab for each student he is posing as.)
If you're teaching in a one-to-one environment, I hope you'll give Kahoot a try the next time you're looking for a fun, interactive experience that will reinforce learning, provide instant remediation, and generate excellent formative assessment data that can guide next steps for both teachers and students.
Three Styles of Assessment
These days, most teachers and students are familiar with the three styles of assessment that are commonly delineated as assessment "for," "as," and "of" learning. However, it never hurts for teachers to make the distinction between these types of assessment perfectly clear right up front in their course, and to then follow up on the distinction by clearly identifying each assessment piece in the course as being either one or the other.
Delineating the Three Styles of Assessment Up Front
I would offer the following descriptions, and even the graphic to the right, to teachers who might wish to delineate between the three styles of assessment right up front in their courses. This information could be included within a website, a learning management system, or a course syllabus.
Assessment FOR Learning:
Assessment that is intended to provide students the opportunity to apply their learning. This assessment is formative in nature: providing both the student and the teacher with insight into the learning that is taking place. This assessment does not count toward the student's grade.
Goal(s): To allow students to practice skills and apply knowledge, and to guide the next steps for intstruction and learning.
Examples: formative quizzes, exercises, and presentations.
Assessment AS Learning:
Assessment that is intended to provide students the opportunity to reflect upon their learning. This assessment is formative in nature: providing both the student and the teacher with insight into the student's own reflection upon his/her learning. This assessment does not count toward the student's grade.
Goal(s): To develop student metacognition. In other words, to give students insight into their own thinking and learning and to help students develop and refine strategies to use in future learning.
Examples: reflective journals, exit cards, pre-test and post-test surveys.
Assessment OF Learning:
Assessment that is intended to depict a student's level of achievement at a given point in time. This assessment is summative in nature, and thus will count toward the student's grade.
Goal(s): To provide the student with a mark that will inform the student and other interested parties of the student's relative achievement with respect to the course curriculum.
Examples: summative quizzes, tests, essays, reports, labs, and presentations.
Teachers are welcome to download the icons from the image gallery below and use them within their term outlines, course profiles, assessment summaries, lesson plans, review sheets, or wherever they may plan or discuss assessment in their courses.
Note: Images downloaded from this image gallery are higher resolution than these previews might imply.
The New Learner Lab
Exploring the ever-changing, often challenging, and always controversial world of teaching.