Welcome back! This is part six of my seven-part summer blog series focused on formative assessments. In the first five parts of this series, I gave an overview of formative assessments, and then I introduced the first four techniques from the book The Formative 5. (Missed the first five parts? See them here.) Today, I will introduce the fifth and final technique, the exit task.
What is an exit task? The authors of the text describe an exit task as “a capstone problem or task that captures the major focus of the lesson for that day or perhaps the past several days and provides a sampling of student performance.” Furthermore, the exit task is designed to be an end-of-the-lesson assessment designed to help students demonstrate their level of performance on a skill. We can then use the information and feedback we receive from students to inform our planning and determine the next steps in instruction. Unlike the Show Me question, the exit task is designed to be given to the class, and because it is a written task, the information provides us with an opportunity to collect and retain that information for further review or as documentation of student progress.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re probably asking, “How is an exit task different from the very popular exit ticket?” Generally, exit tickets are used as summaries of the lesson. In fact, I’ve blogged a couple of times about how to get a little more from a basic exit ticket. I introduced, Exit Tickets with Understanding, a strategy where teachers provide students with the objectives for the day, and at the end of the lesson, the teacher asks students to choose an objective and demonstrate how they’ve mastered that objective. In this case, the exit ticket is more of a written task where students are trying to convince someone that they understand the objective. On the other hand, the exit task is really a problem that we’re offering students, and they are providing a response to an actual task that students must complete. In addition, exits tasks are designed to have a high level of cognitive demand—they require a more complex level of thinking and incorporate multiple mathematical practice standards and/or process skills.
How do we get started using exits tasks in the classroom? Just like in the first four techniques, the first thing that we’re going to do is plan for how to use an exit task in our lesson. There are six questions to consider as we plan for using an exit task.
- How might you consider using an exit task to evaluate student understanding? For this question, we want to think about what our standard is and how we can create an exit task that will allow students to demonstrate where they are in the learning process and give us the most information to help us understand what our students know and understand about the skill we’re assessing.
- What resources will you use to develop the task? Many print resources, like a textbook word problem or supplementary worksheet problem, can be modified to raise the level of rigor and cognitive demand. Collaborating with your teammates will also help create tasks that are challenging and responsive to students’ needs and will give you the most beneficial information about where your students are in the learning process.
- How will you plan for the use of the exit task? This is where we want to think about all of the aspects of the exit task. We want to think about the standard that we’re trying to assess and the level of the question or the level of task that we’re creating. For example, is it a low-level task, where students are repeating a rehearsed procedure they’ve memorized or a task where students are just performing a basic procedure? Or, is it a high-level task where students must connect a procedure to their understanding of the steps of the procedure or a task where they’re having to use their critical thinking skills and understanding of the standard to complete the task? Lastly, we want to think about what responses we may receive and how we’re going to use that information to help move us forward in our planning process.
- At what point in your unit cycle will you use an exit task? This is where we want to think about where in our unit cycle inserting a exit task would be most beneficial for us and the students. Through this series, I’ve talked a lot about these techniques being things that can be used every day. However, with an exit task, you may not have an opportunity to use one that often because they are going to take more time to complete. An exit task may take a longer chunk of time, maybe 5 to 10 minutes, possibly more, for students to respond, so it may be challenging to use one every day.
- How will you analyze student responses and provide feedback to students? This is where we want to think about how we are going to use the students’ responses to help us make decisions— are we going to read the responses and use check marks to indicate the components that students demonstrated an understanding of or make notes about areas where students are having trouble? We also need to consider how to provide feedback to students so that they know how they’re doing.
- How will you prepare your classroom for using an exit task? This is where we want to think the amount of time needed for students to complete the exit task because we’ll need to block off a specific amount of time, especially if the exit task will be assigned at the end of the math block. We also want to consider if there are any resources or any tools students will need to have available to demonstrate understanding so we can prepare those tools in advance.
Let’s look at an example of an exit task. The image below shows a planning sheet I created to help me think through and design the task. The exit task focuses on the same solving real-world problems using the division of fractions standard as in the last four parts of the series to illustrate an example of how to use the technique in the classroom.
From the planning sheet above, we can see that:
- Rather than just giving students a word problem to solve, like I did for the show me tasks, I decided to just give them two quantities and then ask them to create a problem with those two quantities. I want to know if students can take those two quantities, use them in the story problem, and create a visual and an equation that models how they used the quantities. This will help me understand whether students know which quantity is the dividend and which quantity is the divisor based on the way they used it in their story problem.
- The task is at the doing mathematics level because students are using the process and practice standards to create a problem and a matching visual and equation.
- There are two different answers for this task, depending on the problem situation that the student chooses to create— either 6 ÷ 1/3 = 18 or 1/3 ÷ 6 = 1/18. Being able to demonstrate an understanding of writing a story problem and creating a matching equation and visual model shows a tremendous amount of understanding.
- I like for students to complete these types of tasks in a journal. I read each one of them and provide written feedback to students via their journal entry. Then I will choose one, maybe two, responses where I can use the “My Favorite No” strategy to highlight one or two responses with the class. (Read more about My Favorite No here.)
- After I have analyzed the students’ responses, I am going to use them to determine where I go next, i.e. move to the next skill or spend more time solving real-world problems using a visual and process that match the problem situation. At this point, we’ve already worked on dividing naked (without a context) fraction problems using a procedure. The next part is understanding whether students can connect that to a real-world situation.
Now that we have done the planning, the next part is to give the exit task to our students and put our plan into action to help guide our instructional decision-making process.
I hope to see you back next week for the conclusion of my summer blog series where I will talk about my takeaways after reading The Formative 5.
Sound Off! How might you use exit tasks to formatively assess your students?
Reference: Fennell, F., Kobett, B. M., Wray, J. A. (2017). The formative 5: Everyday assessment techniques for every math classroom. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.