Formative assessment in the classroom has seen an upswing recently with the popularity of Web 2.0 tools such as Kahoot!, Socrative, Plickers, Quizizz, and Formative, to make it easier. With all of these great resources available, it seems like every educator is busy assessing what students know and what they don’t know. And that’s fantastic. (By the way, this isn’t a blog about new tools for assessment. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can find it here.)
However, wonderful tools do not an assessment make, especially if the teacher is following the bad advice I’ve heard below. Here are some ways to guarantee that your formative assessment is not only a waste of time, but also detrimental to real learning.
Use Only One Tool
Find one method of doing formative assessment and use only that one all year. Students don’t really like learning new tools, so why waste the time trying out different websites?
Make It Boring, Like the Real World
The best formative assessment is complicated and boring. Make sure the tool you use looks like a bubble sheet or Scantron. Don’t include pictures or music or videos. After all, it is assessment and should in no way be fun, entertaining, engaging, or powerful.
Don’t Use It as Formative at All
Save time by doing the formative assessment at the end of the unit and call it your summative assessment. After all, you aren’t going to change what you’re teaching regardless of the results. So finding out what the students already know and understand about the topic is a waste of precious time.
Don’t Use It to Modify Teaching
Do not modify your lesson plans in any way based on the results of the formative assessment. It’s not the real test and so doesn’t carry any weight.
Make Sure the Results Are Secret
Keep the results of the formative assessment strictly to yourself; do NOT share it with the students. If they find out they already know some things about the topic, they won’t pay any attention to your great lessons. However, if all of the class does equally poorly on the assessment, be sure to tell them that and explain how hard you’ll have to work to get them to master the material “for THE test.”
On the Other Hand
Of course, if you’re a committed, caring educator, then you would never follow all of this bad advice about formative assessment. Instead, you would use it as a powerful tool to help modify your teaching strategies and activities and to better help your students learn the critical content they need to be successful. You would use a variety of resources, both technological and non-tech, to help your kids remain interested and excited about what they are studying. And you would instantly share the individual results with them so that they can see where they need to go with their own learning.
This blog was updated on September 14, 2021.