Welcome back! Today’s post marks the conclusion of my Summer PD series. I’ve really enjoyed reading and sharing my insights from the book, The Formative 5, with you. To wrap up the series, I want to share three of my biggest takeaways with you and then address two additional thoughts that I have regarding the use of the techniques. (Missed the rest of the series, see it here.)
As I mentioned earlier, when I skimmed through the book at the NCTM conference, I almost put it down when I saw that observations and interviews were part of the techniques. However, when I started reading about them, I really began to understand how to use them to develop a deeper understanding of what students know and understand about the content that we teach. In fact, it makes perfect sense—we make observations and ask questions about what we see each day. The authors of the book just help us understand how to take them and use them in a more formative way. In addition, the techniques are simple and easy to use and the included planning documents and other resources make them easily adaptable to any standard or piece of content.
The authors of The Formative 5 not only describe the techniques as ones that can be used every day but that the can also be “ordered and mixed based on your planning and instructional needs” (p. 13). While I know that some of the techniques are not new to us, thinking about them in a way that allows us to create more detailed formative assessment sequences is very appealing. For example, I can use an interview to follow-up on an observation or use an interview to follow-up on a show me response. I can also use a show me response to follow-up on a hinge question. I can even use an exit task to follow-up on a series of observations and hinge question responses that I have been using with my class over a series of days.
I think the biggest “ah ha” that I had while reading the book was how well informed about the criteria for success (standard breakouts) I felt after creating the initial observation planning sheet and using that same planning sheet to help me develop interview questions, a show me request, hinge questions, and finally, the exit task. Through this process, I could really understand and articulate the criteria for success for each standard and then create tasks that allow students to demonstrate their level of understanding. In fact, after developing the observation plan, it was easy to build on that and create the formative assessments using the other techniques. What a worthwhile experience!
How Can Technology be Used to Help Implement the Techniques?
Throughout the series, I really focused on introducing the techniques and sharing how they could be useful in the classroom. However, I did not discuss how technology could be used to create, administer, and evaluate the formative assessments. The authors of the book offer suggestions within each section to aide teachers in this endeavor.
Here is a short list of some of the tech tools and websites they mentioned:
- Video Recording Tools/ Camera
- Google Forms
- Explain Everything
What about Grades?
As I mentioned in part 1 of the series, much of how teachers are using formative assessments right now is a summary of learning that often ends in a grade. You may remember that I defined the term formative as “used to describe the time when someone or something is growing or being formed” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). If that is true, that the students are still learning the content, is it fair to take a grade on it? For me personally, I do not think it is fair. So, how do I get grades? Because the exit task is given at the end of the learning sequence, I usually feel pretty good about what my students understand and I will often use the exit task, I call it a journal task, as a grade. (Disclaimer: If at any time, the journal feedback reveals that students do not understand the material as well as I had hoped, no grade is taken.) In addition, I may give a short answer or multiple-choice quiz sometime after that to follow-up on the task and further evaluate their understanding. This task would also be graded.
I’m so excited about this new learning and hope that you take some time to review the series and pick-up a copy of the book. The authors have created a resource library and offer lots of examples in the text. Happy Reading!
Sound Off! What are your big takeaways after reading/viewing the series?
- Fennell, F., Kobett, B. M., Wray, J. A. (2017). The formative 5: Everyday assessment techniques for every math classroom. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.
- Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/formative