5 Ways to Use Formative Assessment Data in Your Blended Classroom
Flexible and Substantive
Formative assessment is powerful because it’s flexible, and this is a time for ultimate flexibility in education. As opposed to summative assessment, which too often takes the form of a one-shot, high-stakes test that may or may not accurately measure what you want it to measure, formative assessment focuses on the learning process as much as it does the end result. Formative assessment is also flexible enough to be adapted to the unique challenges of the blended classroom in a Hybrid Education model. Here are a few ways you can use the data generated by formative assessment in your blended environment.
1. Prepare to Use the Data: New Setting, Old Tricks
The tried and true formative assessment techniques of the traditional classroom are just as appropriate and effective in the blended classroom—with one obvious, important caveat: You have to adapt them to the blended environment before quality data will be available for use.
For example, I’m a huge believer in “exit slips” or “exit tickets” because they not only quickly and effectively solidify the day’s learning, but also provide immediate feedback to drive the next day’s learning. Exit tickets play out slightly differently in the blended classroom.
If, for example, you are planning to do exit tickets online, there are many different ways to do it to keep the activity fresh and meaningful: an online paragraph response (the most like a traditional exit slip) or a quick two-minute Flipgrid video posted to your learning management system (LMS) might suffice, or you could solicit a quick oral response from each student via videoconferencing software. There are a ton of ways to do exit slips electronically. Don’t limit yourself to just one method of lesson closure/checking for understanding.
Let’s say you’re a big fan of using think, pair, share talk time with your students. Whether your students are in-person or online, you can use breakout rooms to include everyone in the class in such an activity.
The bottom line is that your go-to formative assessment techniques can function effectively in the blended classroom. Once modified, all the formative assessment data you know and love in the traditional classroom will be available for use.
2. Using Formative Assessment Data: Exit Tickets
Now that you’ve adapted your exit tickets to the blended environment. What’s next? Use the data to drive the next day’s instruction. If your exit ticket was an online free-response question, look for evidence of mastery of the day’s objective. Analyze student responses for overall trends.
- What feedback can you provide students as you return the exit tickets?
- What concepts might you need to re-teach at the beginning of the next class?
- Does the entire class need re-teaching or just a select few students?
These are critical questions because they drive the next decisions that you will make. Use exit tickets in the blended environment to develop formative insight into mastery.
3. Using Formative Assessment Data: Think, Pair, Share
Let’s say you’re working through some simple, common formulas with your introductory-level algebra or physical science class. Maybe you’re doing Fahrenheit to Celsius conversions. You explain the formula and the rationale behind the two systems of measurement of heat, but you’re not sure students understand the underlying principles. So, you conduct a quick blended think, pair, share activity to be sure.
You listen in on some of the conversations by the in-person students and join one breakout room online. Then, as the class shares out, you gather even more information. The data collected becomes useful in real time, as you learn that students were struggling with the fundamental difference between the Fahrenheit scale, based partly on the temperature of the human body, and Celsius, a metric scale equally distributed between zero (freezing) and one hundred (boiling). Talking it out got everyone on the same page, and, within about five to seven minutes, the class was ready to move on.
4. Using Formative Assessment Data: Oral Interviews
I once had a Spanish teacher who liked to create a physical tunnel in his classroom during final exams. We had to complete the oral component of our exam by walking through the tunnel to where he sat waiting, at his desk, with a desk lamp on. It was an intimidating but hilarious gimmick that I’ve never forgotten, even though it was more than 20 years ago.
That won’t work in a blended classroom, but oral interview assessments still can—and they don’t have to be high stakes to do so. For example, after setting the class to work on an independent activity, you could build in time for five-minute checkpoints for both in-person and online students or to provide all students with a designated time to enter a video conference with you. Either way, you’ll gain valuable information from these conversations and be able to use the data to drive your next steps with students. The power is that this data is personalized for each student so that you can come up with individualized solutions when students can’t explain concepts, reasoning, or answers.
5. Put Students in Charge of Their Data
As a final “how to use the data” tip, think of ways to put students in the driver’s seat. You are collecting all kinds of formative data all the time— how do you give it back to students to use beyond returning graded assignments? Coming out of an interview, you could follow up with a goal-setting meeting. Combining a think, pair, share with a reflective journal entry is also an option. Using the LMS as a repository for formative data specific to each student is on the table. There are many ways to put students in a position to control their data and feedback and to help direct their own education. We know it works when students have voice and choice regarding the curriculum— why not their data, too?
Trust the Process
In addition to those discussed above, there are dozens of formative assessment techniques, and they all yield data regarding student learning. So, trust the process. Start by gaming out how the technique you have selected is best utilized in the blended classroom and tailor your selection with that facet in mind. Then, use the data to make instructional decisions that will ultimately benefit your students—and help them engage in some of those decisions, as well. Being in a blended learning environment doesn’t change the fundamentals of good teaching. If anything, it enhances the potential value of formative assessment.