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Assessment FOR Learning - Practical ideas for more frequent assessment to enhance learning

This post was originally posted on Assessment FOR Learning on Octob....

As a teacher, have you ever experienced anything similar to the following scenario:

You teach your course content over a period of time. The day before your big test you have a review activity of some sort. The review activity is a good one. It goes well, but during the activity you realize that your students don’t know the material all that well. Considering the number of days you spent covering it, you would have thought they would have known it better by now. The next day on the test the students end up doing fairly well – but probably not as well as they could have done.

If you have experienced a situation like this then you have experienced a situation in which AFL has been used but not to its fullest extent.

If kids did better on the test than they did the day before on the review, then they have obviously used the feedback from the review to guide their studying. That is AFL at work.

But what if the kids had come in on the review day already knowing the content as well as they did on the test day? If that had been the case, then the review day could have been an opportunity to go even further with the content, to master it even better, or to apply it in new ways. AFL strategies could have been used to make this happen.

AFL assessment strategies could be used along the way to help learning “sink in and stick.” I would encourage you to consider assessing more frequently so that students are more frequently engaged with the content and regularly (daily) analyzing their understanding. By the time the review comes along, they should already know what they know and know what they have yet to master. This would be the ideal learning situation.

Here are some strategies that IF USED FOR THIS PURPOSE could be helpful AFL practices:

1. A short daily quiz – The same quiz could even be given on multiple days. It doesn’t have to count much. It might not count at all. On a daily basis, though, the students have a chance to analyze what they know and what’s important. Students need to be informed that this is the purpose of the daily quiz or else they will just see it as another assignment.
2. Rubric for students to check – This idea will be described more elaborately in a future post. For now, what if students had a rubric of important information? Each day they could have time in class to rate how well they know the content. This would allow them to daily assess themselves and to daily review material.
3. Exit questions – Each day students could have a few questions to answer at the end of class. They could find the answers in their notes which would cause them to look back over what they had learned. Never end a class by simply ending notes. Always have students go back over what was covered and analyze how well they know the key points.
4. Do Now about the previous day – Students could start each day with a Do Now (Anticipatory Set) that requires them to look back at what they learned the day before.

None of these strategies are unique to AFL, and I doubt any of them sound all that revolutionary to a teacher with any experience. Remember – AFL isn’t about what strategies you use as much as HOW and WHY you use them. This is what causes a teaching strategy to become an AFL tool. You are assessing students frequently in a manner that allows the students to use the feedback to guide their learning. That’s AFL.

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Comment by Scott Habeeb on November 1, 2009 at 5:18pm
I agree with your first paragraph. Too often we teach at too superficial a level. The reality, though, that many teachers face is that it is difficult to cover content as required by standards and also go deep enough to make it stick. Teachers need a measuring stick to see how well students are doing. Too often they wait until the summative assessment to find out that the students didn't really get it, and by then, let's face it, it's really too late to go back and reteach. With more frequent assessments - such as the ones in this blog post - teachers AND STUDENTS will become more aware of what is being taught and what is being learned.

In regard to your second paragraph - HUH? What in the world is wrong with the phrase "Do Now"? Do you not like the words or do you not like the idea of having an assignment/activity ready for kids to start on the moment the class begins?
Comment by stacy haines on November 1, 2009 at 5:06pm
From my experience, I think this could be the result of teaching the material at too superficial a level. Been there, done that. If we teach connections between ideas and their consequences, and delve deeper into the underlying principles of what we're teaching, this becomes a non-issue.

And I urge everyone to please delete "Do Now" from your vocabulary. There are a bazillion different ways to engage students -- "Do Now" isn't one of them.

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