How Formative Assessments Help Teachers Make Informed Instructional Decisions

As a classroom teacher, we make many decisions in a day. Formative assessments help guide our decisions in what to teach and prioritize with our students. They are assessments we make in the learning process, not just a pretest. In this post, I share a few ways I use them.

As an educator in the classroom, we constantly face numerous decision-making tasks throughout the day. Formative assessments serve as evaluation tools utilized during the learning journey, enabling us to gather valuable insights into students’ comprehension, knowledge, and abilities. These assessments offer teachers a means to effectively track student progress and make well-informed choices regarding instructional strategies.

Formative assessments can come in many forms: exit tickets, quick writes, graphic organizers, concept maps, teacher observations, classroom discussions, and many others. Formative assessments are a valuable tool for teachers to make informed instructional decisions. By using these assessments to identify areas of strength and weakness, adjust instruction, provide timely feedback, inform grading decisions, and encourage student involvement, teachers can create a more effective learning environment that meets the needs of all students.

In my classroom, I use both formative and summative assessments as tools to measure my student’s level of understanding.

What do I absolutely love about formative assessments?

In the classroom, the possibilities for utilizing formative assessments are limitless. Personally, I view formative assessments as valuable “snapshots” capturing our students’ understanding at a specific instant. As part of my teaching approach, I have developed a concise formative assessment tool called “Write About It.” This versatile tool is applicable across diverse subjects and caters to students of different ages and skill levels. Typically employed as an exit ticket at the conclusion of a lesson, students autonomously or collaboratively complete the assessment, summarizing the topic using relevant vocabulary terms.

Recently, I used this in my Earth and Space Science class after introducing the greenhouse effect. How would you use this formative assessment in your classroom? Let me know in the comments below.

 Looking for creative and quick ways to assess your students’ understanding? Check these ideas out:

1️⃣ One-Minute Reflection: Ask students to write down the most important thing they learned during the lesson in one minute.
2️⃣ Exit Tickets: Have students submit a brief response to a question related to the day’s lesson before leaving the classroom.
3️⃣ Think-Pair-Share: Have students think individually, then pair up to discuss their thoughts before sharing with the class.
4️⃣ Muddiest Point: Ask students to write down the concept or topic they found most confusing during the lesson.
5️⃣ KWL Chart: Have students complete a chart with what they know, what they want to know, and what they’ve learned after the lesson.
6️⃣ 3-2-1 Summary: Have students write down three key takeaways, two questions they still have, and one thing they’d like to explore further.
7️⃣ Sentence Starters: Provide sentence starters related to the lesson topic and ask students to complete them.
8️⃣ Role Reversal: Have students take on the role of the teacher and explain a concept to their peers.
9️⃣ Gallery Walk: Post different materials or questions around the room and have students rotate to respond to each one.
🔟 Quick Draw: Have students draw a visual representation of a concept or process covered in the lesson.

Remember, the effectiveness of formative assessments depends on aligning them with your learning objectives and adjusting them based on the needs and preferences of your students.

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