We hear a lot today about formative assessment — thanks in part to Rick Stiggins, who has provided a great deal of research and multiple resources for teachers in recent years. Too often, educators confuse formative assessment with benchmarking and more formal assessments that students take in quiet, controlled situations. However, there is a whole world of informal formative assessment strategies out there just waiting to be used in the classroom. These strategies often fit seamlessly into instruction and can take as little as seconds to incorporate. Gifted teachers use many of these strategies instinctively. Great teachers are always looking for another strategy to use with their students to “mix things up.”
Several years ago, I conducted year-long training on formative assessment based on the work of Sue Brookhart at Hickory High School. Each month, we would discuss different types of formative assessment strategies, model them, and discuss classroom implications. Then, the teachers would go back into their classrooms and choose one of the strategies we discussed to implement. Teachers would reflect on what went well, what did not go well, what they would do differently, and how the strategy impacted their next steps. Then, at our next training, teachers would share these reflections as well as their classroom experiences with each other. It was a powerful training, not because of my work with these teachers, but because of their collaboration with each other, their specific feedback on each strategy, and the artifacts they created for classroom use that other teachers adapted for their own students.
Near the end of the school year, teachers were asked to share any other formative assessment strategies they used in their classes that had proven successful. I was impressed with many of the different strategies that teachers used to inform their classroom instruction. However, of all the techniques shared that were new to me, my favorite was one shared by Mark Struble, Automotive Technology Instructor. I have come to call Mark’s strategy “The Struble Technique.” To this day, it remains one of the most powerful formative assessment strategies I know.
Here is how it works…
A few days before giving a major assessment, provide students with a copy of the test and a multiple-choice bubble sheet. Ask students to bubble “A” if they are 100% sure they can answer the question correctly. Ask them to bubble “B” if they are not 100% sure they can respond correctly to the question. The teacher can disaggregate the data to create a plan to address student deficiencies in review sessions or differentiate in groups. The teacher can also gauge his/her own instruction and evaluate where more/less time needs to be allotted when this concept is taught again.
The feedback on this strategy has been interesting. Some teachers find this idea novel and can’t wait to use it with their own students. Others feel a sense of shock that we would share an assessment with students before they take the test. Education has changed, and the world we live in has changed as well. Our goal is not to hold all the answers and be the keeper of knowledge but to share that responsibility with our students. Don’t we want them to know what our expectation is of them? By providing students with an opportunity to gauge their own understanding, we are also providing them with the chance to become self-directed learners and to understand what they need to do individually to prepare for their success.
Mark Struble’s willingness to allow his students to preview major assessments gives students the opportunity to self-assess and acknowledge their deficiencies. Moreover, the strategy also allows the teacher to reflect on his practice to determine what students learned, what they did not retain, and what to do next. Mark Struble is an exceptional teacher, in part because he uses multiple measures of assessment for learning throughout each class period. “The Struble Technique” is just one example.
Do you like this strategy? If so, you might like “Chris’s Test.”
Here’s how it works…
The teacher creates a test similar to one he plans to give to his class. A fictional student named Chris (or any other name) takes the test. The teacher distributes copies of Chris’s test to the students. Students work in pairs to go through the test, item for item, and determine whether Chris answered the questions correctly. Students then work together, discuss content, and review content as a formative check of their understanding. The teacher then reviews with students and administers a similar test the next day. (Rutherford, 2008)