Five (or maybe six) ways that digital formative assessments beat exit slips

BY Formative Educator RACHELLE POTH

There are five ways, or maybe six, that digital formative assessments beat out exit slips, that instantly come to my mind when asked for my thoughts on this topic. Now these are not necessarily in any particular order, you may ask me and I might reverse the order on any given day, these are just what come to mind.  Therefore, I make no disclaimer that these are ranked in a special order nor that they should be.  I also do not expect that everyone will agree with the reasons that I have chosen. However I will say that in my own eyes and experiences, these are the first five, maybe six things that come to mind when I think about the benefits of using digital formative assessments rather than traditional exit or entrance slips. And again, my list is not in any specific order although I will tell about each in an order.

#1 Digital Means no more paper

As a teacher, I always had so many papers to grade. Teachers take a lot of time to evaluate the work, provide feedback, give comments and help our students to grow.  We have to provide support for the students and formative assessments are the means to do this, however traditionally this required a lot of paper.  However with digital tools and so many options, teachers and students will benefit because no more class time will be lost passing out pieces of paper and then waiting for students to pass in their papers.  And also, who will miss not having the extra papers to manage? With so many digital formative assessment tools available to choose from, we can still provide this valuable feedback, guide our students, and have a record along the way. The nature of digital tools enables sharing with a class and papers are not lost, which is great for ongoing reflection and growth throughout the academic path. We can just accomplish all of this in a faster, more accessible manner.  

#2 Digital tools enhance lesson flexibility

Thanks to the many options available, there is not such a pressing need to have the full lesson plan prepared or plan out your entrance or exit slips in advance.  By the nature of digital tools and their quick accessibility, these assessments can be done last minute. And without anybody being the wiser. You may be leading a class discussion, or engaged in other direct instruction and decide that it seems like a good time to determine how the students are doing with the material.  Perhaps you want to find out if they have concerns or questions, or there may be other areas you might want to assess.  Using digital tools enables this to be done quickly, simply and no time is lost. By time I mean, time spent waiting in line for the copy machine, or if it really is a last minute decision, for your printer to generate enough copies for your class, or the traditional passing out pieces of blank paper.  More time can be spent working with students based on our findings from the data and building relationships to help them grow.

#3 Digital means a lot more choices

There are a variety of choices for creating a digital formative assessment and transparency comes with that. It is transparent to students what they must do and clear results allows both teachers and students to make choices. Students can easily read the questions and there can be a variety of questions to provide for various learning styles.  Another benefit is depending on the setup, teachers and students can have the results instantly. Teachers can use these results immediately and prepare for the next day’s lesson or use the data in the beginning or middle of class to adjust the instruction based on the results of the assessment. Digital tools really enable both the teacher and student to benefit by live results, providing reinforced instruction where needed and also allowing each to see where the strengths and weaknesses are and work toward new goals.

#4 Digital tools lead to enhanced student engagement and greater technology skills

Digital formative assessments provide opportunities for increasing student engagement while also further developing their technology skills. Giving students the opportunity to show what they know and can do with the material by responding using their device is highly beneficial. Students love using technology and by engaging them in the learning process and showing the benefits of the intertwining of technology with the content material, they can learn to appreciate its value even more.The assessments created can include elements of gamification, providing students with choices, learning their needs from their input.  They see the value in what they are doing.  As a result,  their learning becomes meaningful because they can have those results and that valuable  feedback instantly and directly on their device.

# 5 Digital formative assessment supports legibility

Fifth, using digital tools for exit or entrance slips really does help those of us who have struggled to read the writing of a student and wonder what their response really says, and with these digital tools these worries disappear. The questions are provided and students select or type responses.  Whether it be in the form of multiple choice, true/false, short answer questions, essays, or even just a poll, student responses are typed or a box is checked, and it is legible for everyone.  In most cases they can be downloaded into an email or a spreadsheet for further review and guiding the lesson.

The final and possibly 6th reason: Digital tools build and enhance so many skills

This is the sixth reason but is related to the fifth reason.  One of the other things I really like about digital tools for formative assessment is that there are so many great choices available. The varieties of digital tools enable students to not only master the content area and make learning more meaningful, but also to develop a variety of skills and in many cases, encourage them to use the same tools for their own purposes during school or another area of life. Students learn to access information, collaborate and communicate in new ways using their device and as part of their learning experience in and out of the classroom.They can even share these with family and friends who can also integrate these tools into their lives and lines of work.

So what do you think?

So in conclusion, while I kept it to what started as five reasons but turned into six as to why digital formative assessment tools beat exit slips, as you can see the list can easily grow.  I can think of additional benefits now.  Perhaps you have seen the same benefits in your classroom, perhaps you have other reasons that you could add to the list I have shared. Regardless, the benefits are definitely there and I would love to hear your thoughts. Continue to add to the list by adding your reasons into the comments section below.  Thank you for reading! I look forward to hearing from you.