Formative assessment is the most powerful tool in our learning design toolkit. When we design learning, we can build in formative assessment strategies to ensure that we know how learners are progressing in their understanding so we can adjust our teaching accordingly. More importantly, formative assessment strategies allow learners to see their progress, reflect on where they are at in their learning journey and understand what they need to do to move forward.
In this section, we have selected a number of formative assessment strategies which you may find useful when design learning around the Digital Technologies curriculum.
In order to really make learning visible, every student must be ready to answer a questions at any time. We encourage you to try putting a rule in place in your class that unless a learner is asking a question, they are not allowed to put their hand up. This will ensure that all learners are ready to give an answer.
One strategy is to use lollipop sticks with learner names on them to select who should answer the question, or an online random name-picker such as Random name picker. Using this strategy, combined with your judicious choosing of learners to answer questions, means that you will get a much better overview of the class progress and be able to adapt your teaching appropriately.
If we wish to have our learners demonstrate their understanding rather than their memory or Googling skills, then we need to ask higher order questions that force learners to think. We can think of these as 'unGoogleable' questions that require reflection and the connection of knowledge to create understanding. Examples might be: 'What might happen if …?'; 'How would x affect y?'; 'Why, in your opinion, is x a better option than y?'. These questions are not asking for the regurgitation of facts, but rather a demonstration of understanding.
This very 'Tiggeresque' strategy brings the two strategies above together and adds an element of co-construction. In this strategy, the teacher (or another learner) poses an unGoogleable question. They then pause (remember, no hands up) and think about their own answer. The teacher then pounces on someone to answer the question (think about using a random name generator, lollipop sticks or your own judgement). The student’s answer is then bouncedto another student who can comment on or add to the response and this can continue for as long as you wish.
Dylan William talks about this technique being like shifting from table tennis (where the teacher initiates a question, a student responds and the teacher evaluates that response) to basketball (the question is passed out and strategically distributed across the team).
As teachers, we will often model a correct answer or a 'good' version of what we want our learners to produce. This can be a very valuable tool and you can co-construct success criteria with your learners, so they know where they are in the learning with reference to your model, and how they can improve. There are other modelling techniques available to us. For example, we can put up a wrong answer and work with the learners to model where the answer went wrong.
We can also model the thought process out loud and encourage our learners to do the same. One of the areas of learning we will most definitely model implicitly are the skills and mindsets from the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities. While we might be modelling great learning behaviours, communication and collaboration skills implicitly, it can be even more powerful to do it explicitly with learners and to celebrate them when they are demonstrating these capabilities. Putting as much emphasis on mindsets, skillset and toolsets as we do on the knowledge set we wish learners to acquire is a key component of the Digital Technologies curriculum.
Reflection on learning and progress is often something that we leave until the end of a lesson and sometimes, due to the pressure of time, it is often the part of a lesson which falls off the radar. By encouraging frequent reflection throughout learning, we can help learners to see the progress they are making in smaller chunks. Very simple reflection tools like 'www/ebi' (what went well in my learning and even better if) can be powerful when used as part of frequent reflection. Or try a 'hands-up, eyes-closed, traffic-light poll' – three fingers in the air means you are confident enough to teach the concept you have just learned; two fingers means you just understand it; and one finger means you need help. See this example from our lesson examples.
Seeing how learners are thinking can be very difficult, but if we can introduce simple strategies to help us visualise learning, we can correct misconceptions, celebrate understanding and support or stretch individual learners. A very simple way to do this is using mini whiteboards. While not as big as their electronic interactive cousins, if each learner is given a mini erasable whiteboard, they can demonstrate their thinking without the permanency of writing it down on paper. This allows you to get an impression of the whole class's understanding by asking for them all to be held up at once.
Thinking routines are strategies that help to structure learner thinking in such a way as to give the teacher maximum feedback on learners' progress and understanding. Some of the routines are as simple as Think, pair, share – where learners, reflect alone, compare and contrast their thinking with a partner and then share with a larger group or the class. Each iteration allows for the refinement of individual understanding by integrating the wisdom of the group. There are many thinking routines and Harvard University's Project Zero shares many of them here.
Building in time for one-to-one learning conversations is an extremely important part of understanding learner progress and helping to develop a personalised approach to learning. This can be challenging to teachers as it means that you may need to allow other learners to progress without your assistance while you have these conversations with individuals or small groups. It may also be useful to keep short notes during these discussions, perhaps just written notes or even in a spreadsheet so you can reference them later. This is particularly important if tackling a longer project.
A simple strategy to encourage learners to take more responsibility for their own learning without relying on the teacher is 'C3B4 ME'. This simple code means that learners must use three sources of information (C3) before they ask for your help (B4 ME). There are lots of visuals online to support this, just search for C3B4ME. Possible sources of information could be a friend, a Google search, a book or YouTube.
Here is a video in which Berger models great critique.