By Formative Educator Daniel Woleslagle
The process of education is an ever-evolving entity. The world of a student twenty years ago is almost unrecognizable today. Often, when I think about this, I forget that twenty years ago was only 1997. In 1997 there were no Ipods, no MP3s, no digital tablets, no modern social media, and encyclopedias still filled library shelves. The daily routines and interactions of our students were no more than fleeting thoughts of inventors or science fiction. How can we expect our students to learn in that same environment? Unfortunately for many there is little thought given to asking a group of students to sit in the same classrooms and learn in the same manner as some of us did in high school. Our perception of education tools must evolve beyond pencil and paper.
Perhaps the greatest challenge that educators face today is understanding that students do not interact with each other in the same manner that we did at their age. For sure, this could be a lengthy discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of modern technology, but if we truly embrace the education of today’s young people we must be willing to understand their learning process. They live in a world of the instantaneous. Everything that they need, want and experience is little more than a few clicks and at most a few seconds away. Shouldn’t their interactions with education come from a similar place of rapid reinforcement. There has been significant research into this in an attempt to better understand how the modern classroom can be at it’s most efficient. One such ongoing study is that of Dr. Paul J. Riccomini from Penn State University. Dr. Riccomini focuses on Response to Intervention Instruction in Mathematics. One of the key elements of this study is “more frequent progress monitoring of those students in need” (Riccomini, 2010). This is where I believe that Formative can be extremely valuable.
In my classroom, I use Formative not only in getting feedback to my students, but also in getting feedback to my parents, administrators and myself. When my students are reviewing or assessing on Formative, I have an unobstructed view into the progress of each and every student.
Being able to see every student’s answers as they progress through their work gives me an opportunity to intervene and support almost instantly. If I see that a student has missed the last two or three problems in a math assessment, I have the ability to see what key idea that student is missing. This allows me to directly address that individual student on their level as they are working through the problem. This makes their learning more impactful, and increases the odds that they will retain the information that we discuss. In years past, the student would work on the assignment, turn it in, wait for me to grade it that night and return it the next day. So, a full day later they receive a paper with a failing grade. This does not motivate them to start from square one in figuring out what they did wrong. More often than not, they will feel dejected or “stupid” and tell themselves that they just “can’t get it”. By correcting them as they work, I am able to fix their often minor mistakes instantly and give them the opportunity to practice the material correctly.
I have the privilege to teach a 6th grade, self contained, classroom. Often, I have parents who want feedback on how their students are doing that is more than a report card. With Formative, my parents can see exactly how their students did on an assignment, and are able to work with those minor concerns at home. This also helps my students and parents know exactly where they are standing grade-wise at any given point. You see, this feedback is more than just a grade. It is an intervention.
Of course, some of the greatest need for feedback is for myself. Whether I am using an Exit Slip, a class survey, or looking for areas of reteaching as a whole class, I have access to those individual question and assessment scores without sifting through stacks of papers or creating a new matrix to organize it all. Imagine, instant feedback. When I review a test or assignment in my class I love how I am able to turn off identifiers and correct answers and as a class we can study the answers that the class gave without judgement. We look for common answers and discuss the misconceptions that led to them. This helps my students know that they are not alone in the mistakes that they have made.
In all, Formative has given me a way to efficiently and instantly engage my students on an individual level. I have found that my students are more engaged in the material and have taken a higher interest in fixing mistakes and bettering their scores. This feedback has allowed them to work with individual issues and not entire chapter tests or bulky assignments. Whether they are on an Ipad in my room, a smart phone on the bus, or discussing the assignment with their parents and friends at home, they have an educational tool that meets them on their level and in their instant digital world.
Riccomini, P.J. (2010) Response to Instruction and Intervention for Math. Retrieved on 5/22/17 from PDEconference.com.