Formative Assessment

muddy lady

Something about that word, Assessment, seems to get extreme responses in one direction or another in higher ed.

What I like most about formative assessment is that it can be ‘thrown in’ easily  and often (and should be!) to get a sense of where are students are at with their understanding.  If we waited until the very end of every unit, chapter, set of lessons, etc., we may have lost several students along the way.  Checking in and taking the ‘pulse’ of your learners is an important part of learning and teaching.

In order to get the most out of your formative assessment, whatever method you choice, think about the following:

  • Share the outcomes of the lesson with students before the lesson. I have a Today We Will list that I post and go over at the beginning of each class. Can’t remember where I got this technique but it gets the student “on topic” and provides expectations at the start.
  • Describe to students what the formative assessment will provide. Let them know it’s important to be honest so you can further support them

And of course, there are so many techniques out there!  Choose the ones that work best for you and your students.

Some of my favorites:

  • Muddiest Point (love to share muddy visuals to anchor this concept!)
  • Understanding Check
  • Quick Write
  • Two-Minute Paper
  • Polling
  • Peer Feedback (see Kim’s Impromtu Speech with Peer Review)
  • Think-Pair Share
  • Exit Tickets – have students write comments/questions on a 3×5 card and hand in at end of class
  • Reading Quizzes – I use this as a way to check students’ understanding of the reading material before they come to class so that I see where misconceptions might be and I can better frame our lesson in the classroom, rather then regurgitate the readings.  This is a form of Just-in-Time-Teaching.
  • Concept maps

Some I may try:

More ideas at Teacher Toolkit

Teacher Toolkit checks for understanding

Formative Assessment Resources:

Using Formative Assessment to Evaluate Student Participation

56 Formative Assessment Ideas

A Sampling of Types of Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment: Its Aristotlian Essence

Education Portal Formative Assessments

HotChalk Lesson Plans

West Virgina Department of Education

Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning Formative Evaluations

One Sentence Summary Video Explanation

Muddiest Point Video Explanation

Impromptu Speech with Peer Feedback

The impromptu speech is one of the most fun and valuable experiences for my students!  They have some anxiety before it gets started, but always reflect later that these impromptu opportunities are truly the most valuable in terms of real world skills.

The way this assignment is designed focuses on two overall elements of speech, the content and the delivery.  By the time students give their first impromptu speech, they have learned the basic elements of a speech, including introductions, conclusions, examples, organization, and vocal and physical variety. The impromptu gives the student the opportunity to be able to orally share something on a given topic with clarity, organization, and effectiveness.

Here’s the flow of the impromptu:

  1. Take student volunteers.
  2. Pass around a basket with slips of paper that have a variety of different topic sentences on them.  This is really random and I try to make it fun and relevant to the specific group of learners.
  3. Students choose three slips and decide on one of these.
  4. Students may spend about 2-3 minutes preparing and then they go live!
  5. Impromptus are about two minutes long and include the basic elements of the speech as described above.
  6. The final part that I added last year, which was very effective, is the Peer Feedback portion. Peers from their teams also do a brief ‘Quick Eval’ to give feedback to the presenter.

A peek at the eval used by instructor and peers:

  • Content – clear main points, examples, effective first and last sentence, clear organization
  • Delivery – vocal and physical variety included
  • Comments – details on each of the above

Pecha Kucha Presentation Technique

Pecha Kucha (PK) is a great strategy to use for micro-lecturing. This technique is a concise, visual presentation that can be used in a variety of settings, including the classroom (online or face-to-face!). I have used this technique in many settings and have encouraged it for student-generated content for the simple fact that it forces the presenter to be very concise and deliberate with the limited time they have to present.

Pecha Kucha includes a total of twenty slides, twenty seconds each, for a total of six minutes and forty seconds. Take a look at the following Pecha Kucha presentation, sharing what it is all about in the PK format.

Pecha Kucha Micro Lecturing Technique by Kimberly Vincent-Layton
Pecha Kucha

Introduction to a Lesson – the “Flight Plan”

Preparing the introduction for my lesson reminds me of preparing a ‘flight plan” before take off.  Everything needs to be in order, in my mind. I go over my notes, my materials, do a run-through in my mind, check and re-check.

cockpit by berin

These “starter sets”, or introductions, can include a variety of different elements to “hook” your students into the lesson as you get started.  It is important to grab them at the beginning and begin to turn that attention into engagement with the lesson concepts.

Yesterday, in my public speaking class, we were focusing on using “attention getters” and “transitions” in a speech.  I began by asking the students about what exciting adventures they had over Spring Break.  That was my lead into the lesson, which began with my exciting adventure over spring break. The personal story that I shared with them to introduce the lesson was sprinkled with a variety of “attention getters” such as:

  • activity and movement (which you can’t “see” in this audio below)
  • proximity (referring to someone else in the room)
  • novelty (the type of therapy I spoke about)
  • familiarity (a different personal story I shared with the class a few weeks prior when we worked on introductions)
  • suspense (building the students up after telling them I got 50 injections)
  • a bit of humor (joking about how I handled the injections better than my husband who was only watching)
  • “the vital” (which appeals to audience sense of value, make life better, save time, save money, etc.).

I noticed that my transitions were not as smooth as I had hoped to demonstrate for my students. I used a lot of “ands” and “sos”, rather than varying my transition words, or using pauses.  We discussed this after my intro and did a fishbowl activity in which two groups were able to orally practice “attention getters” on a given topic. This was followed by a brief discussion of “transitions” as compared to driving a stick shift with smooth shifting (no grinding of the gears effect!). The students then had practice with coming up with transitions in the following “Transition Card Pair-Share”:

  1. Students partnered up and came up with one sentence (absolutely anything!)
  2. I passed out a sentence that I created on a slip of paper to each pair
  3. The pair worked together to create a transition statement to tie the two sentences together smoothly.
  4. Much hilarity ensued due to the nature of the funny statements I gave them, i.e.: There are many things you can say about your dog, but not your roommate.

Overall, this activity was very successful in that students really understood and practiced how to create transitions, which are critical to a fluid speech in order for the audience to follow.


Note: To get my audio recording, I did the following:

  1. Recorded my intro via my iPhone 5s (using VoiceMemo app)
  2. Emailed the VoiceMemo to myself
  3. Downloaded the VoiceMemo (Mp4)
  4. Logged into my SoundCloud free account and uploaded the Mp4
  5. Once uploaded, I selected the Share menu and copied the provided code and pasted it into this WordPress post (this last step can be a little tricky as free WordPress pages don’t seem to like the code). Feel free to keep in simple and just create a hyperlink to the URL of your SoundCloud audio file.

Online Study Skills and Tips

Study Skills and Tipscomputer, desk, books, notes by Jonathan Smith

Let’s take a moment to think about how truly important it is to have good, solid study skills so you can be successful in whatever learning experience that you encounter. The online environment is convenient and flexible for learners. However, it is important to know that it is ever more critical to develop strong study skills in this virtual classroom because it is easy to fall behind. Some of the very same study skills and tips that you use in the face-to-face classroom, also apply to the online classroom, with the addition of some more useful strategies to support your online learning.

You’ve already read about time management in an earlier section of eLearning 101. It is also listed here because it is one of the key strategies to successful online learning*. Typically, online students are taking online courses because they have a busy schedule, (work, school, family, schedule conflicts), and most “activity” in the virtual classroom falls on nights and weekends. Use tips listed in the Time Management section to create a schedule for your online class. When you will work on assignments, readings, etc.

Study Tips and Strategies:

  • Have a time management schedule
  • Have a dedicated study area
  • Get good sleep, eat healthy, and exercise
  • Organize your study materials
  • Apply/relate new information to information you already know
  • Be an active reader, reading to understand
  • Take organized notes
  • Write drafts of papers
  • Work problems
  • Stay motivated
  • Study for exams

Support Systems

  • Log into your online class daily
  • Participate in Study Groups or connect to other online classmates
  • Ask questions
  • Talk to your teachers (office hours are meant for this!)
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to ask for help
  • Seek Tutoring services (this can be face-to-face or online, i.e.: HSU Tutoring Services,

Additional Resources

* Roper, Alan R., How Students Develop Online Learning Skills, 2007.

Online Study Groups

word cloud using words related to groupsStudy Groups

As an online student, you may feel a bit “isolated” at times, because you may not physically see your instructor or classmates. Getting involved in a study group can bring you more connected to your classmates, as well as support you in class activities and assignments. Studying in groups offers students an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and to gain new perspectives on the course material. In the online environment, meeting in groups may look and feel a little different than the face-to-face classroom. Your group may decide to create a Facebook group to “meet” and discuss course assignments/projects. Or maybe you might “meet” via Skype, GoogleHangout, or GoogleChat. How about using a mobile app such as Wiggio? The overall idea here is that there is an endless amount of online tools to support your groups; be sure to find the best-fit for your group.

5 Reasons to Join a Study Group

  • learn on a deeper level
  • make more efficient use of your study time
  • improve your listening and presentation skills
  • gain new perspectives on the material
  • learn to collaborate productively with classmates

10 Study Group Success Tips

  • Keep group size at 3-5 people
  • Set a regular “meeting” time
  • Communicate
  • Set clear goals for each study session
  • Establish ground rules for staying focused
  • Study group members must actively participate in the class
  • Rotate the leadership for balance