4. How to use formative assesment

SHORT TESTS [ST]

  • Define the learning objectives of the teaching activity at stake – possibly via co-creative processes involving students and alumni. Inform students clearly about the established learning objectives.
  • Establish and explain to students the way(s) in which ST can help reach the learning objectives.
  • Establish the frequency of ST depending on:
    • The time resources allocated to the teaching activity at stake (class hours plus individual study hours)
    • Student group size: the smaller the group size, the more frequent ST
    • Student group level: the higher the students’ academic level, the lesser need for frequent ST
  • Establish the length and content-type of ST: most reasonably, the more frequent, the shorter tests. Depending on the academic field, multiple-choice (tick-box) tests may, or may not be appropriate. Multiple-choice ST can easily be implemented online, via smartphones, but they may not be appropriate for specific learning objectives pertaining to the humanities and the creative fields.
  • Establish the summative assessment impact of ST, if at all. ST may be weightless in terms of the student’s final grade but, depending on the academic system, positive results may cumulate into the final grade, up to a certain maximal ratio. In the latter case, ST contribute to on-going assessment, an objective actively promoted by certain academic systems, including the Romanian one, specifically in the TUCN.
  • Ensure that students are provided with constructive feedback on ST, shortly after the test, ideally the immediately next teaching session. This is essential in order to formatively benefit from ST. Teaching time must be thus organised so that time for feedback on ST is allocated regularly, depending on ST frequency.

WORK-IN-PROGRESS DRAFTS [WPD]

  • Define the learning objectives of the teaching activity at stake – possibly via co-creative processes involving students and alumni. Inform students clearly about the established learning objectives and about the way(s) in which WPD can help reach the learning objectives.
  • Define the assignment and establish the FA sequences as intermediate milestones along the working process (e.g.: topic selection; documentation; analysis; conclusions of analysis and formulation of a concept for the work; elaboration and detailing; editing and presenting).
  • Former years final assignments, but also WPD, may be effectively used as formative examples for the current student group, during the FA sessions.
  • Establish the summative assessment impact of the WPD sessions, if at all. WPD may be weightless in terms of the student’s final grade but, depending on the academic system, positive results may cumulate into the final grade, up to a certain maximal ratio.
  • If WPD are assessed orally in class, encourage all students to attend discussions of their peers’ WPD not just their own. Encourage students to develop their critical skills, ask questions to their peers, as well as formatively discuss their own progress along the learning process. Students may be also asked to grade their peers intermediate progress as revealed by their WPD, then confront their grading to the teacher’s – grading may remain purely informative and have no impact on the final summative assessment.
  • If the teacher formatively assesses WPD outside class, this may be done via text annotations, but also via audio annotations (e.g. to a PDF document), which are less time consuming and may be perceived as a more friendly and constructive feedback style.

PRE-GIVEN KEY TERMS [PKT]

  • Define and explain to students the learning objectives of the teaching activity at stake.
  • Structure the teaching material in sequences whereby teacher’s discourse (15’ to 20’) is alternated with interactive moments, when specific key-terms or key-topics are launched for discussion.
  • Most typically, an initial PKT can open a lecture, setting a starting level for the teacher’s discourse, according to the students’ current understanding of the topic. Possibly, the same PKT may be launched for discussion at the end of the session, thus gauging the learning achieved during the course / teaching activity.
  • Students may be divided into smaller groups wherein the PKT is discussed in parallel, or alternatively, different PKT may be launched for discussion, each in a different group; following the 5’-10’ discussion / brainstorming time, the groups share their findings with each other.
  • An alternative PKT technique is to ask a volunteer from the group to give an opinion of the PKT at stake. This is likely to function very well when course material is provided in advance (see Flipped Learning) so that students can already be prepared.

GALLERY TOUR [GT

  • Inform students from the beginning of the term that their work would eventually be exhibited in such student-work gallery, in order to be viewed not only by their class/ study year, but also by the rest of students and staff.
  • Set clear standards of quality for the expected outcome, e.g. presenting and analysing dos and don’ts of previous generation assignments.
  • Involve students in the organisation of the gallery, including arranging the display space, designing the configuration and layout of the exhibition, advertising etc. Sharing the responsibility for jointly presenting their work is a significant active learning opportunity for students.
  • Organise enough time for all displayed works to be presented, viewed and discussed.
  • Choose the GT timing so that opportunities for interaction between students and teachers from different groups / study years are provided.
  • Students may be asked to grade their colleagues, so that eventually a top-five can be for instance established.
  • Alternatively, students may be asked to grade themselves and then discuss this self-evaluation with the teacher after the summative assessment / grade is communicated. Confronting and analysing possible discrepancies between the two grades can constitute a valuable formative experience for both student and teacher.

PEER and SELF-ASSESSMENT [PA & SA]

  • PA is a powerful technique for developing students’ critical abilities. Use PA as part of other FA methods or techniques, most indicated, the Gallery Tours or the Case Study Presentations.
  • Use SA as a student-empowerment tool, since SA fosters students’ responsibility for their own learning. This is profitable for both students and teachers. It can help bridging student-teacher understanding gaps and inform better teacher understanding of the student’s self-appreciation, as well as her/his ambitions.
  • To help students actively monitor and be aware of their own progress or learning gaps, implement SA as a self-standing FA exercise. This may take the form of a teacher-student discussion / coaching session, or may involve filling-in custom-made questionnaires, whereby the student has to reflect on several learning progress measurement criteria and assess her / his current level on a given grading scale.
  • Alternatively, integrate SA to other FA methods or techniques, such as the Gallery Tours or the Case Study Presentations. SA can successfully be the topic of selected ST (short tests) along the semester.
  • Provide time for both PA and SA to involve formative feedback, instead of being just summative – giving grades to one’s peers or to oneself, respectively. PA should also encourage students to give comments on their colleagues’ work, while SA should also involve teacher’s ‘feed forward’ in relation to the student‘s self-appreciation and self-expressed ambitions.

CASE STUDY PRESENTATIONS [CSP]

  • Inform students from the beginning of the semester about the possibility of presenting individual research case studies. Provide the list of eligible case studies from the beginning or, alternatively, announce that such list will be offered at regular intervals (e.g. weekly, every second week, etc.).
  • Define CSP subjects taking into account the available research time (according to the individual study time allocated in the discipline syllabus) as well as the presentation duration (ideally 5’ to 10’).
  • Ensure that a wide array of study subjects is offered, or let students propose their own subjects within a given framework, so that a personal, individualised engagement with the learning process is stimulated.
  • Clarify the expected quality standards, if possible by exemplifying with previous-year successful works.
  • Establish whether the successful CSP are graded and if yes, the granted number of points. It is recommended that CSP receive points, however on an uneven basis: e.g. between 0,5 and 1-2 points (out of the maximum 10 for the final exam).
  • It is also recommended that students are allowed to present a limited number of CSP, e.g. one or two per semester, so that there is space for the less active students to participate too.
  • Allocate time for questions and answers after the CSP. As a matter of example, one CSP per 2h teaching session works well, allocating 10’ for the CSP and 5’ for questions and answers.
  • It is important that students provide formative feedback too, not only the teacher, such critical exercise being formative in itself.