Using formative assessment to create student ownership

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Objectives

Participants will use their knowledge of formative assessment and rubrics to guide students towards developing their own strategies to improve their learning.


"When teachers hand over to students the power to shape their own learning, the learning that occurs is often more powerful than what would have transpired if the teacher had directed learning activities." (Brookhart)


Increasing student ownership

A common desire many educators have for their students is that they would take ownership of their learning, develop an intrinsic motivation to learn from their mistakes. Read Brookhart's article to investigate how formative assessment plays a part in student ownership of learning.


Media:formative_assessment_that_empowers.doc


Students, as well as teachers, can use summative test results to make decisions about how to improve their learning. Often, when students see a grade on a test, they judge themselves by this number. However, can there be objectives that students have mastered, even if their grade is poor? Can a student with a high grade still find room for improvement? Students can use test results to make decisions about their learning. If the assessment items are matched to learning objectives, teachers can guide students in examining their right and wrong answers in order to answer questions such as:

  • Which objectives have I mastered?
  • What have I seen myself improve at?
  • Where are my areas of weakness?
  • Where didn't I perform as desired, and how might I make those answers better?
  • What do these results mean for the next steps in my learning, and how should I prepare for that improvement?


Assessing for Learning

When 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, just like a meaningful homework assignment does. This is formative assessment at its most valuable. Called assessment for learning, it supports learning in two ways:

  • Teachers can adapt instruction on the basis of evidence, making changes and improvements that will yield immediate benefits to student learning.
  • Students can use evidence of their current progress to actively manage and adjust their own learning.

Assessment for learning can take many different forms in the classroom. It consists of anything teachers do to help students answer three important questions:

Where am I going?

  • What do I need to master? By giving students visibility to the learning objectives they are responsible for mastering, students will know what is expected and be able to make a plan for their own learning.
  • What are the criteria? Showing students strong and weak examples of a product or performance they are expected to create gives guidance as to expectations. Providing a rubric as a scoring guide at the start will help students determine what is acceptable work and why.

Where am I now?

  • Administering a non-graded quiz during a unit (or a graded quiz that has the potential to be retaken) can help both teacher and students understand what areas need more focus. Using a rubric listing objectives and level of mastery can make learning very visible to assist in making plans for further instruction. Students can clearly see areas of strength and further challenges, and measure their progress on these objectives over time.

Here is an example of an 7th grade math test with a rubric: media:7equation_test2.doc

How can I close the gap?

  • As students assess their strengths and challenges, they can use this information to set goals for further learning. They might graph or describe their progress on specific learning targets. Reflection should be a part of this activity; ask students to comment on their progress: What changes have they noticed? What is easy that used to be hard? What insights into themselves as learners have they discovered?
  • Teacher feedback is critical at this time. With the information gained from these “self assessments”, students can make plans for their learning, yet they need support from teachers to make this happen. This includes planning for time for students to learn the knowledge and skills they missed on a summative assessment and to retake the assessment. Lack of time for such learning is one of the biggest hindrances to formatively using summative classroom assessments.


When students use feedback from the teacher to learn how to self-assess and set goals, they increase ownership of their own success. In this type of assessment environment, teachers and students collaborate in an ongoing process using assessment information to improve rather than judge learning. Success hinges on the assessment's ability to provide timely, understandable, and descriptive feedback to teachers and students.


Your Turn

Look back over recent summative assessments you have given; choose one. Create a rubric that you could use to help students assess which objectives they have mastered and those they are still working to master. Be sure to include questions (as listed above) that will help the students take ownership and create individual goals for their success.


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