When I chat with teachers about the power of common formative assessments, the conversations are generally positive. Almost universally, teachers see the value of identifying whether students are learning the concepts and skills that they are targeting in their instruction. They conceptually agree with the practice and value the process of working with a collaborative team to design the assessments and analyze the results.
However, I often hear teams express concerns about the time gaps between delivering the assessment and their opportunity to collaborate around results. In other words, teachers might not have a chance to co-analyze and co-plan with their colleagues before needing to proceed instructionally with their students. They worry about missed opportunities for their students to receive timely feedback and support. Ideally, teams can align their assessment timeframe with their collaborative meetings (Bailey and Jakicic, 2019). But when that perfect timing isn’t possible, how might they collectively respond in the interim to provide immediate feedback for students?
Even though those powerful collaborative conversations will still be taking place when the team meets, effective teams can also commit to using routines that support the need for their students to receive timely feedback and support for their learning. Here are some of my favorite routines that can be used individually or in combination with others:
Reviewing Assessment Items
In this process, students are facilitated to examine the correct responses to assessment items and discuss potential misconceptions that could lead to incorrect answers. Teachers can use a variety of approaches, ranging from tech-based tools such as the assessment item analysis features on Google Classroom to more “low-tech” strategies, such as providing copies of anonymous assessment responses for teams of students to examine. As students are gaining insights into misconceptions and strategies, teachers are also noting patterns in the common errors or poorly written items that might require modification by the team.
Analyzing Anonymous Work
Using strategies such as My Favorite No: Learning from Mistakes (2018), which was highlighted in a Teaching Channel video, teachers can engage students in analyzing the quality of responses to assessment items/entry tickets. Once anonymous examples are selected by the teacher, students work to identify strengths demonstrated by the individual as well as mistakes made. This strategy can be employed in several content areas, using a whole-group or smaller cooperative group approach. Teams can agree to use this routine daily but only use the results from specific dates (e.g., Friday) for their collaborative analysis and discussion.
Making assessment corrections
Once assessment items and common errors are reviewed, students are required to improve the quality of their response or correct their items. In this practice, the value is not in simply having students replace the wrong answer with the correct answer, but in their reflection of why the item was incorrect or incomplete, and the rationale for the correct answer or revision. Before agreeing to use this process, teams should discuss and reach consensus regarding the content and quality of the corrections, and the amount of credit students receive once they’ve turned in their corrections. For example, a team may agree that students must explain why the answer they first chose was incorrect, and then give the correct answer. The team may also agree that students will get half credit for all corrected items.
Tracking progress toward learning goals
Using a common template or online system, teams can have students self-monitor their progress toward specific learning targets. By charting their progress, students can reflect on areas of strength and those in which they need to increase their skills or get targeted support.
Post-assessment routines, such as those described above, allow students to receive and use feedback in a timely fashion. Additionally, teams that activate these post-assessment routines find they are more quickly gaining critical insights about the instructional strategies that worked best.
They can then bring these insights to their collaborative meeting during which they further discuss specific strategies found to be effective, then identify students who need additional support and interventions, and any implications for modifying the curriculum or assessment items. When team members commit to adding common post-assessment routines to their assessment practice, they have created a system for taking immediate action and getting a collective jumpstart on improving learning for their students.
Bailey, K., & Jakicic, C. (2019). Make it Happen: Coaching with the 4 Critical Questions of PLCs at Work®. Solution Tree Press.
My Favorite No: Learning From Mistakes. (2018, September 08). Retrieved from https://www.teachingchannel.org/video/class-warm-up-routine