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FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS AND HOW THEY MAY BE

EFFECTIVELY EMPLOYED IN THE CLASSROOM

Ross Molloy G00295466

B.Sc. (Hons.) in Design & Technology Education


to
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Letterfrack

Module Leader:
Programme:

Pauline Logue Collins PhD


B.Sc. (Hons.) in Design & Technology Education

Module Title:
Date Submitted:

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Applied Theory of Education


12th December 2014

I would like to thank my Lecturer Dr Pauline Logue for her support and
guidance during the course of this degree programme and in completing this
assignment. I would also like to thank the GMIT Library staff for their
assistance in locating and accessing relevant research materials which has
been invaluable to me.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgements....................................................................i
1

Introduction..........................................................................1

Assessment...........................................................................2
2.1 Summative assessments................................................2
2.2 Assessment and Curriculum...........................................3

Formative Assessment........................................................3
3.1 Types Of Formative Assessment....................................4
3.2 Self-Assessment...............................................................4
3.3 Peer Assessment..............................................................5
3.4 Peer Teaching...................................................................5
3.5 Teacher Observation........................................................5

Formative Assessment Games...........................................6


4.1 Last Person Standing......................................................6
4.2 Flashcards.........................................................................6
4.3 Pictionary Game...............................................................7

Conclusion.............................................................................7

Bibliography.......................................................................... 9

INTRODUCTION

To gain an insight into ones abilities in a particular field as adults we like


to assess ourselves against our peers or others of similar ability. If we
analyse this in terms of social psychology, as humans we like to know
where we stand in relation to others, what are ones strengths, what are
ones weaknesses and where is ones hierarchical position in society?
Formative assessment is something we all do on a daily basis as adults,
weather we realize it or not or if the intention is self-motivated or not. As
we have grown into adulthood it becomes the basis of many of our daily
actions.
As the 12 Years a Slave actress Lupita Nyong'o said I give myself
homework when I have an audition. I give myself goals and that's how I
check how I'm doing. It can be something simple like 'listen,' or 'find your
feet.' And then afterward it's an assessment (Peikert, 2014, p. 1) She is
reflecting on weather her self set goals were achieved? Were the goals set
by the casting director achieved? Nyongo goes on to state it's not about
booking the job or not. It's about what I learned as an actor about that
character. In many ways she has set herself the goal of better
understanding of the role she is to play. Her own learning outcome is
insight into the character, with the aim of becoming a better actress.
When in the schools teaching, we are acting in a way, by playing the
different roles required as a teacher. From the strict disciplinarian, to the
caring and supportive role model. There are many skills and techniques
we will have to employ. One such skill is the effective use of formal
assessments in the classroom. I believe it is of vital importance to the
career of any successful teacher. In this essay I will analyse the available
literature, class notes and research studies carried out in relation to
formative assessments.

I will firstly discuss; the two main types of assessments, how assessment
and curriculum work in combination with each other and the assessment
of learning outcomes. I will then discuss formal assessments in detail
overviewing a range of available strategies. I shall then examine games
and how they may be used as formative assessments. The topic is vast so
there are many other types of formative assessments strategies not
discussed, I have focused on some that are particularly effective for
technology teachers.

ASSESSMENT

Biggs and Tang state that (a)ssessment is something of an umbrella


term, encompassing a range of methods and techniques. (Biggs, 2007, p.
35). So what is assessment in relation to schooling? It is a systematic
basis for making inferences about the development of a specific student.
It is a means of interpreting and analysing how well the students do at a
particular activity. The NCCA state that (a)ssessment generates
important information about how a learner is progressing. (NCCA, 2014)
The resultant information can then be used to improve the students level
of learning and understanding of a particular topic through teacher
feedback and the adaptation of ones own learning strategies. The
assessment should focus on the steps to achieve ones targets and not
solely on the end goal. Suskie states assessment is the on-going process
of establishing clear, measurable expected outcomes of student learning,
ensuring that students have sufficient opportunities to achieve those
outcomes, (Suskie, 2004) Suskie goes a step further by setting out
guidelines on how this may be achieved, she states by systematically
gathering, analysing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well
students learning matches the expectations and using the resulting
information to understand and improve student learning. (Suskie, 2004)
The numerous approaches for assessment in education can broadly be
broken down into two main types under the headings of; summative

assessment and formative assessment. I will analyse and discuss these in


greater detail later in the essay.

2.1

SUMMATIVE

ASSESSMENTS

Summative assessments are commonplace in the education system. They


usually happen towards the end of a year or topic examples include; the
Christmas test, end of year test, the Junior Certificate and the Leaving
Certificate. These are all common forms of summative assessment in the
Irish education system. Summative assessments are the assessment of
the learning which should have already taken place by the time of the
test. Anderson states (s)ummative assessment is concerned with
gathering information about the learning after the learning should have
occurred. (Anderson, 2001, p. 102) A simple analogy of this we can all
relate to is dining out at a restaurant When the chef tastes the sauce it is
formative assessment; when the customer tastes, it is summative.
(Anon)

2.2

ASSESSMENT

AND

CURRICULUM

Assessments form an integral part of effectively teaching the curriculum.


The curriculum itself sets out the learning outcomes and skills the pupils
are expected to learn. It sets out how that is to be assessed and it covers
the total learning experience provided by the school. The NCCA states
(t)he curriculum sets out not only what is to be taught, but how, and how
learning in the particular subject area is to be assessed. (NCCA, 2014)
The NCCA goes on to state the curriculum provides for adaptation in the
school the preparation and continuous updating of a school plan. (NCCA,
2014) The school can therefore adapt the assessment strategy to reflect

the way in which learning is assessed. The learning outcomes however


should still remain in line with the curriculum.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT

Bentham states that formative assessment refers to daily on-going


feedback, which the teacher gives to the student to assist learning.
(Benthan, 2002, p. 46) It is constantly happening and adapting to the
given constraints, the teacher must adapt the required feedback to suit
the topic, student or class. Anderson states (f)ormative assessment is
concerned with gathering information about learning as learning is taking
place, so that in-flight modifications may be made (Anderson, 2001, pp.
101-102) These modifications should not only inform the student of what
they have achieved to date; but also nurture and encourage their intrinsic
motivation to pursue what they have yet to achieve. In the advancement
of the development of owns own learning.

3.1

TYPES OF FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT

There are a vast quantity of assessment types and strategies that a


teacher may employ in the classroom to gauge pupil progress. I have
outlined some particularly suitable to the technical subjects of Technical
Graphics and Materials Technology Wood below. Some are personal sole
activities, some group, and some games and activities.

3.2

SELF-ASSESSMENT

Self-assessment is the term used to describe all the activities employed


within and outside of the classroom to enable a pupil to reflect on what
has been learnt and judge it against a set of criteria. Who says selfassessment is important? Well self-assessment is a valuable formative
assessment strategy, if employed at the correct cognitive development
level or provided the student is as Piaget stated, at the appropriate
maturational readiness level. The University of Sydney state Students
may have little exposure to different forms of assessment and so may lack
the necessary skills and judgments to effectively manage self and peer
assessments. (University of Sydney, 2014, p. 2). In addition pupil goals
must be clearly set out. Black states pupils can only assess themselves
when they have a sufficiently clear picture of the targets that their
learning is meant to attain. (Black, 2001, p. 7). For successful selfassessment the students need a clear set of criteria. This can be marked
out by the teacher or agreed through discussions between teacher and
pupils, with the latter further developing student responsibility and
increasing their knowledge and beliefs about their own cognitive
processes. Increased meta cognitive ability can be a useful tool as pupils
focus on their own knowledge. Stobart states It focuses the pupils
evaluation on his or her own performance rather than in comparison with
others, which we know is more likely to maintain motivation (Stobart,
1997, p. 18)

3.3

PEER ASSESSMENT

The same maturational readiness levels stated above for self-assessment


may be applied to peer assessment. Marking and grading peer work can
lead to a more rounded understanding of a topic. Walsh states
(e)ncouraging pupils to mark their own work and the work of others leads
to a better understanding of where they have made mistakes and how to

correct these mistakes. (Walsh, 2009, p. 82) However there is a


tendency for grade inflation due to pressure of friendships and reluctance
to make judgments against classmates as outlined by the University of
Sydney The process has a degree of risk with respect to reliability of
grades as peer pressure to apply elevated grades or friendships may
influence the assessment (University of Sydney, 2014, p. 1)

3.4

PEER TEACHING

Mazur and Crouch state that (p)eer Instruction engages students during
class through activities that require each student to apply the core
concepts being presented, and then to explain those concepts to their
fellow students. (Crouch, 1997, p. 5) By doing this the pupil is thinking
critically about their own knowledge and then crucially on how best to
impart this knowledge to their classmates. For example, a student could
recap the key concepts of the last lesson at the beginning of the class.

3.5

TEACHER OBSERVATION

Teacher observation is an on-going assessment that provides valuable


information on pupil ability in any class at any time on any given day. The
results are immediate and it enables regular encouragement where
required. It also has the extremely useful capability of letting the teacher
see can see what formal assessments do not. Maxwell states Teacher
observation is capable of providing substantial information on student
demonstration of learning outcomes at all levels of education. (Maxwell,
2001, p. 1)

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT GAMES

Games can very effectively be used in the classroom as a means of formal


assessment. They can be more motivating for the pupil compared to
traditional classroom activities since games can be intrinsically motivating
to the student.

4.1

LAST PERSON STANDING

Last person standing is a quick game that can be done on the spur of the
moment. It can be fun, fast paced, provide quick results, and needs little
preparation in advance. Key concepts or topics can quickly be recapped at
any point in the class. It can serve to divide sections or topics and could
be used as a break from the current lesson. It could however make some
pupils self-conscious. Teacher discretion is advised for students lacking in
self confidence. Being the focus of attention could impair their social
development. An alternative group assessment where there is less focus
on the individual may be appropriate in such a case.

4.2

FLASHCARDS

Flashcards are a set of cards with key information printed on them. The
information could be a literacy question, a numerical problem or a
pictorial recap. They can be used alone or in groups, and can be used in
addition to standard classroom questioning techniques. The information
itself can be adapted to suit the learner or the class topic. Literacy and
vocabulary skills can be practiced and learned, mathematical and
numerical problems expressed or solved. Flashcards can be seen as
repetitive due to the fact that they exercise the process of active recall.
This can be helpful in the understanding of key concepts, but could be
seen to be in the outdated style of rote learning. In this scenario the pupil

could be deemed to as Anderson states possess the relevant knowledge


but cannot use that knowledge to solve problems. (Anderson, 2001, p.
64)

4.3

PICTIONARY GAME

Pictionary games can be a very useful tool in the teachers repertoire of


assessment activities. It promotes graphacy amongst the students, which
could be extremely useful in the technical subjects of Technical Graphics
and Materials Technology Wood. The teacher may select key words for the
students to interpret in a picture. This has a range of benefits; the teacher
is assessing current knowledge and ability, the teacher is using Brunners
spiral curriculum strategy to recap previous knowledge, as Bentham
states The spiral curriculum develops and re-develops concepts at
different ages with increasing complexity. (Benthan, 2002, p. 16) The
pupils are practicing their graphacy and the game is also breaking up the
lesson into smaller more innovative components retaining pupil attention
and interest. It does require some preparation to be effective; cards need
to be prepared & laminated before class, a range of cards are needed at
different difficulties to reflect the contrasting abilities of the pupils.

CONCLUSION

Many forms of summative assessment may be used within the technology


subjects. Teacher observation is of obvious importance due to the inherent
dangers involved in certain areas of project work. Teacher observation can
prevent small errors occurring which can subsequently lead to problems
completing an assignment fully. Observation must therefore be a
continually on-going process. Self-assessment, peer assessment and peer
teaching have the ability to work extremely well as an assessment

strategy within the technology subjects. With the nature of the subjects
being very hands on there is a need for active participation by students
with their work, weather it is a project for woodwork or drawing for
technical graphics. Self-assessment gives the pupil an ability to correct
errors as they occur. Peer assessment can lead to discussions on how, why
and how to do it in the future. Peer teaching is the final stage; if the topic
is understood properly, the student should be able to deliver key concepts
to their peers.
Summative assessment games can be a valuable part of the assessment
cycle, they can act to break up the learning while actually assessing the
level of understanding. Games such as Pictionary can promote graphacy.
Last person standing could be a quick time filler, but also a useful recap of
the key learnings. Flashcard games can promote literacy and vocabulary
skills while also reinforcing the new terminology encountered.
As a teacher no one strategy can be employed; a range of varying and
suitable strategies must be used, in a suitable manner and at the correct
time. For example, a fun assessment strategy suitable for last class on a
Friday would not be suitable on a Monday morning. Pupil energy and
attention levels must be considered. The assessment itself must always
provide the teacher with information on student ability, then the teacher
can give feedback to the student in the form of positive reinforcement
with something to work on. The pupil can then act upon the feedback by
analysing and altering their actions to improve for the future.

Now more than ever, an education that emphasizes general problem


solving skills will be important. (Bill Gates, nd)

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Longman.
Anon. (n.d.). nd.
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