I have spent the past 10 years of my professional career researching formative assessment and its use (or lack thereof) in the classroom. I have conducted qualitative and quantitative research, interviewed teachers, observed classroom practices, read the literature and tried to zero in on elements that facilitate or constrain its use. For those of you who aren’t familiar, formative assessment can be defined as those formal or informal ongoing assessments conducted by teachers and their students that provide evidence of mastery which is then used to direct the learning. It’s a process, not a singular instrument, event, or strategy. It includes making the learning targets clear, empowering students as partners in the process, having them self-assess and set goals, effective feedback, and closing gaps. Makes sense, right? Despite all the research (and there is overwhelming evidence to support it) formative assessment has gained minimal traction and is not widely used by teachers or students in the U.S. Some have never heard of it, some have heard but don’t implement it, some disagree as it flies in the face of traditional instruction and the long-established, deeply-entrenched roles of classroom teachers and their students. School is a place where students go to watch teachers work, right? Seems that way at times as historically students have been passive recipients and the teachers have done most of the work. The conclusion I’ve drawn from years of study is that one of the main elements that constrains the use of formative assessment is traditional instruction, along with all of the habits, practices, mindsets, time restraints, ideas and beliefs that come with it.
But the times, they are achangin…thanks to technology and flipped learning, we can easily move from teacher-centered traditional instruction that can make formative assessment awkward and seemingly intrusive, to student-centered instruction where it has the potential to be seamlessly embedded in the active learning that takes place. Lecturing and direct instruction leave little time or opportunity for effective, ongoing assessment, especially for the student. We know that the flipped classroom provides the perfect scenario in which we can engage students during class time in activities that are collaborative, project or problem based, visible, active, higher-level, and engaging. Our role as facilitator is to design the learning activities then interact, mentor, monitor and guide students. This non-traditional approach to what happens during class time opens the door to formative assessment practices making the learning field fertile for implementation.
As we consider flipping our classrooms, keep in mind the important role of formative assessment and the potential it has to improve learning. Rather than being an afterthought, this process should be purposefully planned and implemented as it is a key ingredient to its success. In the traditional classroom, grading is typically based on homework that students complete independently, quizzes taken in class that reflect individual mastery, and summative tests. In the flipped classroom when “homework” is done collaboratively in class, it compels us to change how we assess student learning and how we collect and report grades. It’s time to investigate assessment methods that improve the learning and ensure that learning outcomes are accurately measured.
In summary, the active learning that takes place in a flipped classroom provides exciting opportunities for teachers and students to make formative assessment an integral part of the learning process and is a key ingredient to achievement. My next blog at http://alearningboxblog.weebly.com will provide practical ways to implement formative assessment in the flipped classroom. Let’s do this!
About the Author
Cathy Box is an Associate Professor in Education at Lubbock Christian University whose area of expertise is formative assessment. At LCU she serves as the Secondary Education Program coordinator and teaches methods courses to pre-service teachers. Before coming to LCU she was a high school and middle school science teacher in Tahoka, Texas for many years. In addition to her teaching duties, she serves as a consultant to area school districts to help them recognize the power of formative assessment and incorporate it seamlessly into their curriculum. The active learning that takes place in a flipped classroom provides exciting opportunities for teachers and students to make formative assessment an integral part of the learning process and is a key ingredient to achievement. Visit her blog at http://alearningboxblog.