5 Formative Assessment Strategies for Engagement in Online Learning

Over the last year, many educators have shifted their testing strategies to incorporate more formative assessments as a way to gain better insight into their learning and make teaching more effective. Particularly, in the aftermath of the pandemic, online formative assessments have been a main tool for educators to engage students, measure their progress and get them back on track after any learning loss that occurred. 

There is no doubt that students perform better when they are engaged in regular, formative activities. As such, low-stakes pop quizzes, online polls, discussion boards and chat boxes have become popular tools for formative evaluations in online classrooms. These fast pulse checks assist teachers in ensuring that pupils understand essential concepts and help identify gaps in their knowledge. In any subject, good instructors should use this information to adjust their teaching based on what students know and need to learn.

Formative assessments are not only valuable tools for teachers, they also help students gauge and track their own progress throughout a course. Introducing formative assessments consistently additionally helps inspire students’ confidence and mitigate the pressure and anxiety they face leading up to a high stakes summative exam. 

Engaging Formative Assessment Strategies

As an educator, you don’t need to fully recreate traditional formative evaluations. Nevertheless, you can alter common methods such as exit tickets and virtual think-pair-shares to increase student engagement online. Below are a number of formative assessment strategies you can use to keep students engaged while gauging their learning. 

Multi-stage Adaptive Testing

Multi-stage adaptive testing is similar to computer-adaptive testing in that test questions are selected for each student by an algorithm based on their performance. However, rather than individual questions, in multi-stage adaptive testing groups of questions are selected for students to build the test in stages. 

This approach allows students to review and revise their answers as they work through an assessment, and see where they’ve made mistakes. It also enables more personalized assessment and offers students better control of their learning which in turn boosts their engagement. 

Game-Like Simulations

Gamification has rapidly gained prominence in digital assessment over the last few years as the demand for authentic assessment in the classroom has grown. Incorporating game-like simulations into formative assessments opens the door for students to creatively engage in learning while having fun along the way. 

When looking for an online platform to support gamified assessments, interoperability is key. Assessment software built on the QTI standard allows for limitless integrations and extensions to develop advanced test questions. This gives the flexibility to incorporate new tools like AI, and multi-step problem solving activities into their formative assessments.  

Virtual Entrance/Exit Tickets  

Entrance and exit tickets are students’ written responses to prompts or questions given at the beginning or end of a class, designed to help educators understand what a student already knows, or what they have learned. This is a classic formative assessment approach that can easily translate to an online context. To keep the information private, you can use an assessment platform like TAO that enables students to engage with a prompt or and submit a written response digitally. Conversely, educators might also choose to share exit tickets with an entire class by putting questions on a discussion board, where students can see and comment on each other’s responses.

Digital Journals  

Each student processes material differently, and for some raising their hand and being recognized in front of the class can be daunting. Digital journals can support after-class reflection exercises that provide students time to contemplate a little more deeply and communicate both what they understood and what they didn’t. Using an LMS platform like Moodle, educators can create a Journal Jot online record for each student to track how well they retain the material. Students can answer individually to prompts such as what they know, what they want to know, and what they learned, what they found intriguing, or what they didn’t understand in their journals. 

Triangle-Square-Circle Assignments

Giving students a choice in formative assessments is critical since not all learners express their thoughts in the same way. The activity Square, Triangle, Circle asks students to reflect on their learning by summarizing key points, synthesizing information, or asking clarifying questions.

Each shape comes with an accompanying prompt. For instance, a student who chooses square will be asked to share the concepts from the lesson that have been squared away in their mind. Choosing a triangle requires a student to extract three key ideas from what they’ve studied, where choosing a circle requires them to discuss anything that’s been circulating, such as ideas that haven’t fully crystallized.

Students can compose their remarks individually in an online assessment platform for asynchronous learning. Teachers can also make the exercise collaborative in a synchronous lesson by asking students to choose a shape and then dividing them into groups based on that shape. This is also one technique of encouraging children to learn STEM as this activity encourages critical thinking and analysis. Students can swiftly discuss their ideas with classmates in breakout groups before sharing them with the rest of the class to complete the learning.

While the fundamentals of formative assessment may not change during school closures, implementing formative assessment strategies during distant learning would almost certainly necessitate a shift in thinking. Developing these principles, on the other hand, can help your class reestablish its learning culture and make it simpler for everyone to push through the isolating effects of online learning.

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