Using Schoology for Formative Assessment

Learn more about formative assessment in Schoology
Contributed By

Kellie Ady

Director of Instructional Strategy, Schoology

Using Schoology for Formative Assessment

Posted in Schoology | March 22, 2019

Spring typically means assessment season for many districts, and while summative assessment has its place (especially in the area of school, district, or state accountability), formative assessment is one of the most powerful tools teachers have when it comes to impacting student learning (Black, Paul, and Dylan Wiliam. Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment.Granada Learning, 1998).

Much of what we do in the classroom can be used either formatively or summatively, but according to Atkin, Black, & Coffey (2001), formative assessments specifically help address 3 questions for learners:

  1. Where am I going?
  2. Where am I now?
  3. How can I close the gap?  

Schoology can help with all of these questions.

Where Am I Going?  

Use Custom Learning Objectives

Critical to the formative assessment process is a clear understanding of learning targets -- and "clear" means in student-friendly language. Your best bet for student-friendly objectives or targets is to create them in Schoology. Schoology already has state standards, Common Core, NGSS, etc,, built in, but you may decide to reword them for student understanding. (See Schoology's help article on how to create custom learning objectives).

Once you have created your own (or used existing standards), you can tie those to rubrics, assignments, discussion board responses, and assessment questions.   

Additionally, if you have an existing document with learning objectives in something like a Google Doc, a PDF in Google Drive, or a Word document, you can always embed the document or upload the file for students to access. The most important thing is that students clearly understand the success criteria.

Provide Exemplars

In addition to providing students with clear learning targets, providing examples of high level work also helps students understand where they are going. Schoology is very flexible in terms of what you can upload and embed. Remember that something doesn't have to exist digitally to be shared digitally. If you have something 3 dimensional or in hard copy, use a mobile device to capture it. Anything captured can then be shared for students to access.

Here are just a few suggestions for sharing exemplars:

  • Create a Portfolio to save student exemplars from year to year (and share that Portfolio with your PLC or grade level team if you are all contributing examples or use a folder in a Group).  You can then provide a link to show students those examples, right within your course..
  • Create a Media Album in your course or group for sharing student exemplars (this is especially effective for images or video content).  Add notes or captions about each exemplar to give more detail (or ask students to add their own comments about the examples).
  • Create a page in a course or group to embed multiple web-based projects or examples (e.g. Prezi, ThingLink, WeVideo, etc.).  This allows you to put several examples on a single page with space for commentary, if needed.
  • Grab a snippet or a paragraph via screencap of submitted assignments in Schoology's Document Viewer.  You can either take a screencap with annotations included or turn them off. Either way, taking a screencap means that you can grab the part you want without also revealing a student name.
  • Create a Discussion Board for exemplars (which can contain embedded content or uploaded files) and encourage student reflection on what makes something an exemplar.

When using formative assessments with students, regardless of the medium, be sure to start with that first question: where are they going?  Schoology can help both you and your students address that question for learning.

Where am I now?

According to Stephen & Jan Chappius, "[w]hen teachers assess student learning for purely formative purposes, there is no final mark on the paper and no summative grade in the grade book. Rather, assessment serves as practice for students . . ."  So how can you help students know (and reflect on) where they are without a potentially punitive "grade in the grade book"?

Give assessments or assignments a zero factor

One way you can use Schoology to provide information without assigning a grade is to give the assessment or assignment a "zero" factor. When selecting "Grading options" in an assessment or assignment, you have the option to give it a "0.00" factor. That means that whatever is assigned has zero impact on the grade in the gradebook, but students will still see feedback and items that are correct and incorrect.

Tip: to help clarify what this means for both students and parents, name or title the assignment something that indicates its weight, like "Practice" or "Feedback Only."  If you are using weighted categories, you could also create a category in your Schoology gradebook that has a "0%" weight and put any formative work into that category so that it won't figure into the final grade.

Have students self-assess in Schoology

If you have a rubric or a checklist that you want students to use for self-assessment, you can create an assessment with the rubric or checklist descriptors as separate questions (either multiple choice, fill in the blank drop down, or matching).  As students decide where they are in relation to the checklist or rubric, the information is tracked for you in the "results" tab. And, if students are allowed to resubmit, you can see their answers for each revision. If you aren’t trying to track responses for the class,  you could use this approach to have a conference with a student. Consider using the highlight image question type where students can circle or annotate on the rubric and then confer with you about their response.

Tip: make all options in the multiple choice questions "correct" so that students aren't "wrong" for whatever they choose or use the word bank option for fill in the blank. For multiple choice, set each answer to be worth 0 points to avoid point penalties.  You can either give this a completion grade with a bulk override or use the "zero" factor to keep this from affecting the overall grade.

Use Mastery to help students see their progress on specific learning targets or objectives

If you tie assignments or assessments to your learning objectives or standards, the mastery view will provide the learner with information about whether or not they are meeting the objective.  One of the best things about mastery in Schoology is that it helps students see multiple assignments that are tied to the same target. If you are using several pieces of work to support standards, students (and you) can see a cumulative achievement for that standard as well as achievement for each item assessed.

Use a Discussion Board or an Assignment for student reflection

If you would like students to reflect on where they are, you can use the Discussion Board to have students reflect on their learning.  Want it to be private? Use an assignment instead of a Discussion Board -- this gives you "journal-like" options for reflection. Either way, the student has space to reflect on where they are with learning goals.

As students are engaging in the learning process, knowing where they are without fear of a wrong answer or a bad grade helps keep them focused on where they are going -- and ultimately, helps lead to the next question: how can I close the gap?

How do I close the gap?

According to Chappius and Chappius, "Effective descriptive feedback focuses on the intended learning, identifies specific strengths, points to areas needing improvement, suggests a route of action students can take to close the gap between where they are now and where they need to be, takes into account the amount of corrective feedback the learner can act on at one time, and models the kind of thinking students will engage in when they self-assess." And, it must happen during the learning process, "while there is still time to take action."

Leverage Rubrics for Learning

As mentioned earlier, having assignments or assessment questions tied to specific learning objectives helps students determine "Where am I going?"  And because those learning objectives can be used to create rubrics in Schoology, rubrics can help "identify specific strengths" and "point to areas needing improvement."  However, for the rubric to be descriptive, it needs to have more information than default generic headings, like "Excellent" or "Not Proficient."

Be sure to add detailed criteria to your rubric descriptors so that learners understand what "Excellent" means vs. "Good" as neither of these terms are particularly descriptive. (If you are sharing rubrics with other teachers, remember that you can now share those in Resources.)

You can provide individualized and specific feedback using the comment feature within rubrics (to provide focused feedback about a specific learning target or objective).

Give Feedback with Comments

In addition to giving comments within rubrics, teachers can also give feedback within an assignment submission. As the teacher, you can add text comments, record audio or webcam comments, and you can attach files (like models or exemplars to clarify the comment). The student then add their own comment back to you. These comments are organized by "revision." Since formative assessment happens before the end of the learning, let students know they can use your feedback and resubmit an assignment to help "close the gap."

If the student has submitted written work into the assignment, there are also options in the grading window to highlight, annotate, draw, and strike-out on the submission. This lets you give feedback on the writing itself, much like you would with pen & paper. Using the Google Assignment app or the Microsoft Assignment app within Schoology? Make comments right in the space where students are working while it’s in process rather than after submission.

Finally, remember that "[t]he greatest value in formative assessment lies in teachers and students making use of results to improve real-time teaching and learning at every turn" (Chappius & Chappius). Letting students know where they are going, where they are now, and how to close the gap both empowers and gives ownership to students for their own learning.


Atkin, J. M., Black, P., & Coffey, J. (2001). Classroom assessment and the national science standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Black, Paul, and Dylan Wiliam. Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Granada Learning, 1998.

Chappius, Steven, and Chappius, Jan. "The Best Value in Formative Assessment - ASCD." 2010. 14 Apr. 2015 <>

Moss, Connie M., and Susan M. Brookhart. "Lay of the Land." Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom a Guide for Instructional Leaders. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2009.

*This post has been adapted from its original series of posts on the CCSD Tech Tips blog.


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