Examples of Formative Assessment with Technology

First, and most importantly, formative assessment of technology-based projects does not have to be technological. One of the best ways to provide formative assessment, especially in a one-to-one environment, is simply to walk around the room and observe what students are doing, where they are struggling, and provide them with assistance as needed.

Additionally, there are times where providing assistance via the technology they are working with is counter-productive. If a student is struggling in a forum discussion because they are unfamiliar with forum norms or if they can’t seem to get a blog post up because of technical difficulties, then assisting the student face-to-face may be a better option, at least until they are more versed in the technology.

However there are a number of fairly standard ways to provide formative feedback via technology.

Student and Teacher Comments

Student and teacher comments are one of the most common ways to give students formative feedback, but also one of the most abused.

It’s important for comments to be meaningful, and not too lengthy. Pick your battles. Common uses for comments are to highlight what the student did that was good (encouraging them to do more of it) or to point out areas of weakness. Most good commenters find a balance — “I love how you do X. I’m a little confused by Y. Could you tell me more about Z?”

Many teachers spend time in class showing students how to comment effectively. This resource is geared towards younger kids, but has some useful activities (like composing comments on the whiteboard as a class) that are useful to older students as well. (html)

Student Demonstrations

In cases where the project is a wiki or other digital media project, class time can also be use to have students show their work to other students and teachers and receive verbal or short written feedback. You can set up a number of stations that students visit, mix-and-match groups, or have students give short status updates on their work from the front of the class. Student viewing these presentations should be asked to to both identify current strengths of the student project as well as some opportunities for improvement.

Student Response Systems

In cases where you are testing student understanding of a concept, small student response activities can be organized. In these activities students are presented with a prompt which they reply to via a laptop, iPad, smartphone, or clicker. The aggregate results can be quickly scanned by the teacher to better understand what the class is struggling with as a whole.

What you use for these activities depends on what is available to you and what feel you are looking for in the interaction. Products such as Canvas have built in response software that you can use in class. Websites such as Kahoot give a game show feel to the process, whereas websites like Socratic have a more muted approach.

In most cases the key is not the technology, but the creation of well-targeted questions and a well-facilitated discussion after the students answer the question.

Next: Summative Assessment

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