This post originally appeared on the Promethean Planet community blog on May 17, 2012. There are a few redundancies with another of my posts, Top 12 Best Practices for Clickers in the Classroom, but the current post endeavors to focus specifically on using clickers for Formative Assessment. Enjoy – KM
Whatever Student Response System (SRS) you are using in your classroom—e.g. Promethean’s ActiVote, ActivEngage or ActivExpression—these systems are ideal for conducting formative assessment. Not only do they provide the feedback that you need to adjust your instruction, but they save all of the student data automatically, allowing you to examine them more closely at a later time.
Formative assessment is an informal evaluation process that is often used in classrooms. Formative assessment typically is used for the teacher to get feedback from the students about the efficacy of the instruction they are receiving. The answers students give or the activities they complete inform the teacher about what the students understand and what they don’t. It’s especially useful if the teacher can get feedback in real time, as this allows continuous adjustment of the instruction.
Regardless of which system you use, here are a few basic tips for using them:
1. Include questions throughout the instructional period instead of leaving them to the end. Frequent questioning allows real-time adjustment of your instruction to the students’ needs and it helps to keep the students engaged and paying attention.
2. When teaching a new skill, include questions that are different enough from the original instruction to allow evaluation of extension and generalization of that new skill. This requires some work and inventiveness, but remember that application of the new skill to novel examples is the goal.
3. A recent and critical tip from Perez et al. (2010) is that when using a Vote-Discuss-Revote method it is important not to show the results following the first vote. When early results are shown, students tend to shift their answers to the most popular choice, whether or not it is correct.
4. Remember that the tool is only as good as the instruction with which you are using it. Figure out what you need to know and how you want to measure it. Then decide how to implement the response system.
5. These embedded questions shouldn’t count toward the course grade. These questions are all about getting more information that allows you to adjust your teaching. We don’t want kids to be afraid to respond because they don’t know the answer. That defeats the purpose!
Students will grow to love using response systems and you will get a ton of good information about “what they know” if you use the systems frequently and for low-pressure formative assessment. The devices make the experience seem more game-like to kids—to the point where you will notice that they start to request to use them!
Perez, K.E., Strauss, E.A., Downey, N., Galbraith, A., Jeanne, R., & Cooper, S. (2010). Does Displaying the Class Results Affect Student Discussion during Peer Instruction? CBE Life Sciences Education, 9(2), 133–140
- The value of formative assessment (annmic.wordpress.com)
- Formative Assessment on Assessment (thescamdog.wordpress.com)
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