Formative assessments are an essential part of instructional design.
Formative assessments give teachers a glance at the level of understanding students have of a particular topic being taught. We like to focus on the value formative assessments bring in determining if something needs to be retaught, taught in a different way or if we can accelerate on an upcoming. These are some valuable teaching points that have to be incorporated into lessons and planned regularly to make an impact on learning. The reason we are in schools is to help kids learn and planning for these regular glimpses helps us know if we are reaching kids.
Vicki Davis, @coolcatteacher, wrote a great post ‘5 Fantastic, Fast Formative Assessment Tools.” She succinctly captures the true purpose and need for formative assessments – ‘Formative assessment is done as students are learning. Summative assessment is at the end.‘
I recently sat in on a planning session with some teachers and we had a great discussion about the upcoming activities they were developing for students. In the natural flow of the conversation, a teacher mentioned that she would do ‘some kind of assessment’ one day to see if they understood. Our instructional coach asked a couple of great extending questions to get this teacher to not just give this a cursory thought to assessing but to really think about the teaching that had been done and what we wanted the learning to look like – these would help her in creating a good formative assessment. The assessment we talked about that day was some verbal cues she would ask the group,
I encourage you to read Vicki’s post! Its a great resource that goes into good descriptive detail about some of the great digital tools out there we can use for getting a picture of the learning in the room. Some of these tools are some of my favorites to use with staff as we conduct meetings and trainings.
Getting teachers to understand the value of formative assessments is step one, seeing them used in classrooms is the critical next step. There are a numerous resources on formative assessments on the web and you can have these talks with your teachers and staff. But there is particular value in using digital tools.
First, these digital tools help with student engagement. Students are anxious to get their hands on devices and tools to showcase learning and understanding. Its a great way to get active. Second, you ensure responses from all students when you use digital tools. If you are still having kids raise their hands to answer questions or you are simply calling on students you are guaranteeing non-responses from some students in your room. Third, free is great! The tools highlighted here are free for teachers and even have apps for different mobile devices.
In the end, its more important to use a formative assessment than focus on whether or not its digital, paper, verbal or another method. We know that we have to use formative assessments but which ones? I believe in the power of these digital tools because because addition the reasons listed above, they also give teachers quick, easy to read data they can use for planning. With the devices in our school and our BYOD policy, we can ensure that if teachers want to use digital tools for formative assessment, they can.
Part of my duty is to support teachers who want and need to use these digital tools, even encourage them to use them if its outside their comfort zone. Below, I’ve captured some questions and thoughts that may be helpful if you are having those conversations:
These digital tools are great resources in helping teachers get critical information they need to guide instructional planning. Our talks as curriculum leaders and digital leaders has to expand to include what these tools have offer above and beyond traditional means of collecting information.
Last week, it had the privilege and honor of being invited to the final meeting and end of year banquet of the first cohort of the NC Distinguished Leadership in Practice for Digital Learning [NCDLPDL]. This cohort and event was organized by the NC Principal and Assistant Principals Association [NCPAPA]. The goal of NCDLPDL is to provide principals with a skills boost in ‘best practices for leading a successful digital transformation.’ Partnered with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation [an innovation lab and playground dedicated to helping NC schools], this has been a year long blended learning experience providing the principals with the best voices and trainers in this transformative journey.
NCPAPA Executive Director, Dr Shirley Prince, was gracious enough to invite me and my wife to their end of year banquet to give the closing address. The audience was comprised of digital leaders, all at different experience levels. My talk was crafted to share some of my experiences as well as some key focus points that we should have to
I applaud NCPAPA for developing these DLPDL cohorts to grow the digital leaders in North Carolina. Its great to see a statewide organization take the initiative and head up a program that will support paradigm and skills shifts in school leaders. If we want to see the changes, we have to start leading the conversations and build a vision for what it looks like! This is a strong proactive initiative to build the leaders our learners and teachers and schools need.
A week ago, I had the honor of being invited to the PA Elementary Secondary School Principals Conference 2014 with fellow Digital Principal Daisy Dyer Duerr, @daisydyerduerr. We had the pleasure of leading a couple of talks on digital tools in their Tech Learning Lab, an inspiration @PAESSP President Bill Ziegler, @DrBillZiegler, borrowed from the NASSP Dallas Conference. Daisy and I gave a pres on some essential digital tools for building up and maintaining PLNs [this included showcasing our new favorite – @Voxer!]. Our second session was some ‘Play in the Sandbox Time’ – helping provide some personalized learning talks for any- and everyone on the digital tool of their choice.
It was a great privilege to be a part of this event. The organizers of this event went to great lengths to make sure that there was something there for everyone at every level. I really admire the organization and preparation that went into this event – it facilitated the deep learning opportunities we participated in. Everyone was incredibly helpful and committed to making sure all attendees had a good time and left at a better place than they arrived.
Takeaway #1: The Undeniable Value of Group Learning
I had the benefit of attending some great share sessions from Alan November, Michael Fullan and some local educators. Good presentations always leave crowds hungry for more and shake us up a bit and these sessions did not disappoint! November and Fullan both brought great points about how we are or should be designing learning and teaching and leading our organizations. It was enough to make some people question some [or all] the aspects of their leadership practices. I count myself fortunate to have had an opportunity to share some thoughts with some conference attendees after the talks on what we are doing, what we can do and what we need to do. It was great to compare notes with others on what we learning looks likes in our school and what we want it to look like.
This epitomizes what value of the group learning and conversation. This is why we need to get out of our buildings and attend great learning events like these conferences. Not only to hear from experts, we need to be able to share with others in similar and different roles and experience levels. These conversations help grow us as professionals and help the learning and teaching in each other’s school.
Takeaway #2: Getting Connected/Growing PLNS
The networking and fellowship at #PAESSP14 helped make this experience. The face to face networking here only made the later digital connecting more impactful. Connecting at these events is what makes us grow, finding like minded colleagues and even mentors. But we can also count on extending these relationships to our PLN to continue the discussions and sharing to make a difference in growth. I volunteered to lead the first @PAESSP chat of the year on digital tools later that week. Reconnecting with some of the attendees and connecting with others who didn’t was a great experience.
Takeaway #3: Keep Sharing Those Digital Tools
Our sessions were great! I’d like to thank Daisy for being a great co-presenter [she only mentioned she was taller than me twice! #improvement]. Sharing on the digital tools was a lot of fun for us and we could tell that it was informative for our audience members. The only thing that made this better was our ‘sandbox’ time in the afternoon. We didn’t let the numbers sway us OR limit the tools we shared. We talked Twitter and Hootsuite and Evernote and Voxer and Droid phones and iPhones and other toools and devices. [We even helped a vendor with her social media]
We had lots of questions on different levels – a validating experience that we all have to commit to helping others grow and develop comfort and competence levels with these tools. We can’t take for granted that we all have a certain experience or impact level with different tools. While were able to help some people get started on Twitter, we also helped others who were experienced users get more out of their Twitter practice, including managing multiple accounts.
I’d also like to give @DrBillZiegler credit for implementing these Tech Labs. I was able to meet @ as they were leading a Twitter 101 session! Great guys and great PLN builders!
State conferences like @PAESSP are great connecting and learning opportunities we should enthusiastically embrace. It fills in the learning and practice gaps we may have in our practices and understandings. I saw firsthand the great benefit of being a resource to other learners – being able to share how we use tools in our everyday practice makes helped some attendees realize the work is worthwhile, is doable and is difference making!
Thanks for a great experience @PAESSP!