I've been using a lot of formative assessment lately and I'm totally loving it. Most of the students are engaged, and glad of the stress-relief that the feedback-only approach supplies. I thought I'd share some highlights:
1. My IB students passed in an essay that I assessed using a checklist that provided them with plenty of feedback. Then, I indicated the paragraph that needed the most work and instructed them to use my feedback to redo it. I also had them summarize my feedback and rewrite any awkward sentences. I'm doing this to ensure they reflect on -- and use --the feedback right away, rather than on another essay a few weeks from now, when the feedback will lay forgotten, in the bottom of their lockers.
2. This idea comes from Sandra Herbst: whenever you assess student writing (especially shorter pieces) use two different colour markers. Use one colour to mark a dot beside sentences/areas that are well done and the other marker to to indicate areas that need work. Then, conference with the student. It will be their responsibility to tell you why you coded it as you did. This way, they do the thinking and you do a lot less writing on student work. In my experience, they are usually bang on.
3. We're working on short stories this week in my grade twelve class, and I want students to be able to write about the techniques an author uses to develop theme. They will pass that in next week for summative assessment. I've been using gradual release to get them the confidence they need to do it. I modelled how I would do a close read of a story, then we co-constructed the assessment criteria for writing about theme. Then, I shared something I wrote about the story, and we assessed it together, using the criteria. After they read the next story, they worked on a group paragraph together. Monday, they will trade with another group and assess that group's writing, using the criteria again. When everyone's finished, we will discuss what they discovered about the strengths and weaknesses in the writing. In the past, this activity has always lead to great discussion, both during the writing process and during their assessment of each other's work. Finally, I'll give them another story and they will complete the assignment for a mark. Because they have already worked with the criteria, they are more likely to adhere to it in their own writing.
That's what I've been up to in the formative world. My mission is to give them "just-in-time" feedback and to put more responsibility in their hands; my hope is that they begin to take in the suggestions and use them to improve, rather than just focusing on the number. Do you have any tips and ideas you'd like to share?