Inquiry 4: Are responsive formative pedagogies aligned to the purpose and summative assessment?
Formative opportunities support students to develop greater control over their learning, and provide teachers with evidence of learning progress.
Classroom activities are formative when they inform and form how students come to know the expectations of a quality assessment performance.With fewer summative assessment tasks in the new senior paradigm, formative assessment has become even more significant. Formative opportunities often include peer and self-assessment. Through dialogue, and students taking the lead in the learning, these activities can support students to assume greater responsibility for their learning. These formative pedagogies can be time consuming, so clever and deliberate design is essential. It is also important that teachers help students develop the skills needed for these formative tasks, and establish a classroom climate that supports conversation and productive collaboration.
The teachers designed ways to students to self assess and self regulate the quality of their work while they were creating it. Their formative pedagogic activities are listed on this page, along with student feedback about these tasks.
What did this look like in practice?
The teachers ‘backwards mapped’ from the success criteria of assessment tasks to design formative activities. The formative activities often were related to the assessment criteria. The teachers found that this helped the students understand the purpose of learning activities. Through these deliberate activities the teachers were also able to know more about how their students were progressing with their learning and were also able to adjust their teaching plans in response to emerging needs.
Discuss with a colleague:
How do you design formative opportunities for student agency?
The teachers designed a range of formative activities to help students develop greater understanding of their learning and their assessment quality. The following comments were from students who identified how these formative assessment tasks helped their learning.
Expert criteria groups: It just gave me a deeper understanding of the criteria and helped me to aim towards my goal. It also helped me recognise issues in other people’s work, so I could therefore recognise it in my own; seeing what I’m really good at, what I’m missing, so I can therefore work on it.
Teacher feedback to the class: When she does the class feedback, so something she’s seen in everyone’s work, she compiles a list and that’s really helpful because you can check off and see okay, I know this wasn’t me because I can see this, or this was definitely me and I need to really work on this.
Seeing an example of a paragraph then enhancing: I actually found that really helpful, because I kind of thought this is what a topic sentence of an A would look like, this is what the structure of an A would look like, this is how to finish it. So …you remember this is what it kind of needs to look like, so then you kind of have to come up and meet it as like a benchmark kind of thing.
Understanding criteria: After doing this I have actually thought to myself, oh I need to understand my other subjects’ criteria. So I’m confident now that I understand what the English criteria is asking of me, it’s because we’ve done these really narrow looking at the criteria and going these, all these activities to say this is what you’ve got to do…In the past we would look at the task sheet but we’d never really go through what it actually means until this term. I’d never – the word discerning selection comes up a lot…I actually had no idea what that meant until it was explained to me this term…To have her constantly relating it back in class and really just having it up there it really helped me.
Games: Everyone was discussing it as well so we’re getting everyone else’s point of views about the task as well…It also made people who don’t normally put their hand up in class, who don’t normally answer – it made them want to put their hand up and want to make them answer the question.
Peer feedback: It was good to get other people’s feedback as well because normally when you write your assignment, and you read it and you think it’s good, but then when someone else reads it and they can pick up so much stuff that you need to change as well…Reading other people’s [work] is interesting but I’m always a bit hesitant to change my essay when my peers have given feedback because I trust them, but not as much as the actual English teacher.
Mock Trial: Thinking from the perspective of the characters from the play and thinking about the actions that they did in relation to the three themes that we did study was really effective. It made us understand those characters better…As long as the teachers explain how this relates to the unit and how it’s going to help with the type of assessment that’s going to be done I think that’s also good. Our teacher explained how this mock trial would help build our assessment because the format of the mock trial was similar to the format of our actual essay and that’s pretty much what we were doing.
Re-ordering paragraphs in an argument: When you cut it up it’s harder and it helped me realise that when I’m actually writing a paragraph I need to use more linking words, like consequently, additionally or something to make it flow better and the ideas are more smoothly linked. Still when the teacher goes through it at the end and she explains why a certain sentence goes where it goes and then it clicks into place and you realise, okay I understand now.
Visual metaphors: I’m more of a visual learner, so when she describes diabolism, I understood it but then again seeing the pictures that helped a lot…I think just conversing with other people just to see like – because we had a lot of text on the same quote. Some people thought of it in a completely different way to what I did, which really helped me with my essay.
Post-It notes to analyse quotes: With some of the quotes I had no idea how to analyse it, so I wasn’t planning on using it at all. But then hearing other people’s ideas and the figurative advice, they would associate with it. Then it helped me gain a much deeper understanding and actually realise there are quotes that I wouldn’t think of using but are actually really, really good for each them.
Collaborative inquiry: Doing it with someone else in a group helped because other people could explain it…I feel like we’ve all just become an English class. We can all share our ideas and not be judged in any way. It probably just improves your analysing skills overall, hearing what other people have to say, hearing how other people think about things…I think that all of our lessons have been really interactive. So, it’s not like in other classes where you’re just sitting there listening to the teacher.
Peer feedback on paragraphs through an online discussion tool: It gives you that bit of confidence if other people are having the same ideas or writing the same way as you. Since it’s online it’s always there, it’s always accessible, so you can go to it any time you want.
Even just having that practice of writing, just simply a paragraph, analysing a quote or character or something just really helped strengthened our writing skills and like – and build our confidence for the exam. Because English exams are scary. Because what if you blank or what if you do this? But I found that even if I did blank, I could make up stuff on the spot because I had all this practice from writing all these other paragraphs.
We know we got better…Because at the start we were all just writing, like it was mainly an explanation. But towards the end we got to see our improvement and our last ones were a lot more structured than our first ones….and our teacher’s writing just kept getting smaller and smaller. She didn’t have to write as much.
Socratic seminar: Usually we sit in rows and you have to put your hand up when you want to say something or whatever and you have to be prepared and you have to think about what you’re going to say before you say it. Then the teacher goes yes and then you say it. But this environment, it felt a lot more relaxed even though at the start we were really scared… But it was really good hearing other people’s opinions and getting to talk without any intervention kind of thing.
It forces you to engage because I’m sure there are some people in our class who haven’t put a hand up in weeks, or ever in this term, so it forces them to have an opinion and to really think about the topic.
How did this feedback inform the teachers?
Feedback from the students was an opportunity to check on the consequential validity of the learning activities. It was also an opportunity to gather evidence of the effectiveness of the assessment design as a everyday form of intelligent accountability. Being accountable to our students is sometimes an uncomfortable idea for teachers. How did the teachers in this project respond to the feedback from students?
Student feedback about their learning was gathered by someone who was not the teacher. In a 20 minute discussion, students reflected on photos or videos the teachers had made of the formative assessment learning experiences. Students were asked “how did this help your learning?” and “what would make it even better?”
Discuss with a colleague
How might student feedback about formative assessment opportunities be gathered in your context?