Formative Assessment Techniques

August, 2015

As a teacher have you ever wondered if the students in your class are “getting” what you are teaching them? If your library workshop is a one-off session occurring once per term with little or no opportunity to follow up with students after teaching you may want to consider using formative – or “low stakes” – assessment. Formative assessment techniques monitor student learning during the learning process. The feedback gathered is used to identify areas where students are struggling so that instructors can adjust their teaching and students can adjust their studying.

Here are just a few formative assessment techniques that you may want to try in your class:

Written Reflections. Sometimes referred to as “Minute Papers” or “Muddiest Points,” these popular assessment techniques have students reflect immediately following a learning opportunity (e.g., at the end of a class or after completing an out-of-class activity) to answer one or two basic questions like:

“What was the most important thing you learned today?”

“What was the most confusing topic today?”

“What important question remains unanswered?”

A written reflection asks students to develop a short, written response about what they learned from instruction and/or what caused them difficulty in understanding. The minute paper is as beneficial in promoting student reflection as it is for providing information for the instructor. It requires no time to develop and minimal time to administer and analyze. You can then review students’ responses, make notes about what was valuable to students, and reteach course concepts that students frequently identify as unclear.

Checks for Understanding. Pausing every few minutes to see whether students are following along with the lesson not only identifies gaps in comprehension, but helps break up lectures (e.g, with Clicker questions) or online lessons (e.g., with embedded quiz questions), questions put on slides or written on the board, into more digestible bites.

Lecture Wrappers. “Wrapping” activities, using a set of reflective questions, can help students develop skills to monitor their own learning and adapt as necessary. Questions at the beginning of class regarding what students anticipate getting out of a lesson and/or at the end of class about the key points of the lesson. Having students compare their key points to the instructor’s can help students develop skills in active listening and important information.

For more Formative Assessment Techniques see:

For general information on different kinds of assessment, formative, summative, and baseline see:

For other Teaching Tips and more Teaching Resources see:

LINC Toolkit – Teaching Resources

Thank you,

The Library Instruction Committee

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