IMS 2020-2025 Resources



Formative Assessments Gone Digital

Posted by Ken Zimmerman

Sat, Feb 21, 2015

Assessment continues to be a hot topic in today's education circles.  As educators, we spend a great deal of time learning the pedagogy behind classroom instructional practices, but do we spend enough time thinking about and creating formative assessments?  Formative assessments are used to alter teacher practices in order to understand what learning in occurring in our classrooms.  Teach 21 from the West Virginia Department of Education cites, "The formative assessment process guides teachers in making decisions about future instruction."  There are many analog and digital formative assessments that can be used to help guide instruction on a day to day basis.  Formative assessments are rarely graded as they are more of a check for understanding as teaching and learning transpires. There is a time and a place for both analogue and digital formative assessments.  Each have their place and specific value depending on the classroom scenario, topic, and investigation. 

Although there are a great deal of analog formative assessments like observations, exit tickets, questioning and discussions, think pair share, etc., the world of digital formative assessments brings instant results to students in a way to personalize learning more than ever before. Let's take a look at some exciting, motivating, and energizing FREE digital formative assessment tools available to personalize learning in today's 21st century classrooms.

Kahoot is a game based formative assessment tool that has exciting colors, graphics, and movement on the page.  Students connect via any device mobile or desktop and answer the questions directly on their devices.  Students earn points towards a leaderboard.  Teachers share their Kahoots with the public which enables great collaborate Kahoots across a variety of subjects.  Kahoot includes polls, survey questions, and multiple choice. 

Kahoot can be used as end of lesson (ticket out the door) game, opening of lesson (bell ringer), or even throughout the lesson.  Consider in a math class, while teaching each mathematical problem, students see the problem on the board, work through the problem together, tally their results in a Kahoot, and then the teacher reviews the problem with the entire class.

A great visual, interactive tool where students log on with any device mobile or desktop to answer questions based off of the topic of the day. This system is very similar to a student response systems or "clickers" that have been used in classrooms in the past.  Instead of giving each student a "clicker" in hand, their device becomes the clicker.  Similar to Kahoot, students log in via a code provided by the teacher. Once students submit their answers, the answers tally in a visual representation via graphs and charts for a quick formative assessment or check for understanding in the room student by student and by the whole class. The interaction creates a more meaningful conversation/dialogue.  Multiple choice and open ended questions are free.  A paid upgrade adds 100 points, dual axis, and scales. Finally, teachers can click on a get results link so they can see results after the activity was given.  Export results to excel is an option, but it is an upgrade feature.

Mentimeter can be used as end of lesson (ticket out the door) game, opening of lesson (bell ringer), or even throughout the class.  Consider in a language arts class while working through the different parts of speech, students can answer yes/no or true/false questions as the teacher points out different examples.

(Another similar tool to Mentimeter is Poll Everywhere)

Are you looking for a digital formative assessment where your students do not need a device?  Plickers might be just what you have been looking to use in your classroom with any age of students.  The only device needed is via the teacher using the iOS or Android app.  The teacher sets up the plicker questions by creating a free plicker account and setting up his/her students in the class.  After the class is set up, teachers create formative assessment questions for students to answer.  Now, is where the fun begins!  Plickers have pre-made cards that teachers print out for student use. Each student gets one of these cards which becomes their response device.  A card (from looks like this:


Notice that students have numbers and letters options on each card.  The teacher displays the question on the screen and students hold up their cards with the number or letter upside (on top) to give their response.  The teacher pans the class with the tablet using the Plicker App and it picks up each student very quickly tallying the results on the screen.  It stores results so teachers can look at the overall results after the assessment has been given. 

Plickers can be used as end of lesson (ticket out the door) game, opening of lesson (bell ringer), or even throughout the class.  Consider in a elementary reading class where students are learning to identify the theme of a selected reading.  Immediately after the reading, students can be assessed on what they think the main theme is with a quick plicker assessment.

Padlet takes formative assessment to a more collaborative activity where students log on to a Padlet and add their thoughts/answers/reflections/images/files to a collective website.  In order to set up a Padlet, teachers create a quick wall, enter a formative assessment questions, and then share out a link to his/her students.  Students do not need account credentials to log on to the Padlet as it is just a website they access, double click, and add their response. 

Teachers create different Padlets for different activities.  There is a Padlet already created with tasks that are to do, in progress, and done to map out activities that are being completed through project-based learning, collaborative projects. 

Padlets can be used as end of lesson (ticket out the door) game, opening of lesson (bell ringer), or even throughout the class.  Consider having first grade students put their spelling words in two lists on the padlet.  Words that end in a suffix go on one side and words that do not end in a suffix go on the other side.  Consider in a high school World Languages class having students conjugate different tenses of a verb in small groups on the same padlet.  One word of caution is that teachers may not find it effective to have the entire class log on to the Padlet at once but rather create several Padlets for students to access in small groups to avoid congestion all on one page. 

Socrative is a great formative assessment tool that has some polling, surveying, and a game based play called space race. The beauty of Socrative is that the site runs on any mobile browser no matter the device.  Teachers create their quizzes (questions) and select a variety of options to run a student assessment. If teachers want a quick assessment on the fly without loading a particular question beforehand, they select the Exit Ticket and run a quick formative question that is pre-loaded.  Students love the space race so they can work in small groups or teams answering questions and watch their space ship race across the screen.  The best part of Socrative is the reporting feature after any assessment. Complete class results can be exported and sent via email, downloaded, sent to Google Drive, or just made viewable.

Socrative can be used as end of lesson (ticket out the door) game, opening of lesson (bell ringer), or even throughout the class.  Consider running a Socrative Space Race in a science class having students practice vocabulary terminology and definitions.  Students log on to Socrative and enter the "classroom number", add their name, and they automatically get placed in randomized small groups with one another.

The Point?
To sum up the importance of why teachers should focus on formative assessments and use a variety of formative assessments, let's look at how they affect students. Bob Nilsson writes in his article, "Formative Assessments Enable Personlized Learning in Education.", formative assessments help improve student results in the following areas:

  • Takes emphasis off of grades and places it on learning
  • Fosters responsibility in students for their own learning
  • Provides students with immediate results needed for improvement
  • Decrease learning gaps

In my experience, I have seen that variety is "the spice to life" when using formative assessments.  There is a time and place for analog just as much as there is a time and place for digital.  Variety is key to successful uses of formative assessments in today's 21st century classrooms.

What are your favorite formative assessments and how do you use them in your classrooms?  Please post in the comment section below!

Topics: Formative Assessments