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Student-Led Formative Assessment: Why Does it Work and How Can it Solve the Urgent Issues of the Hybrid Classroom?
By: Deana Senn
What is student-led formative assessment?
Student-led formative assessment is when students take an active role in assessing their own learning and tracking their progress toward a learning target during instruction. It is also sometimes called student-initiated formative assessment or student self-assessment.
The student-led formative assessment process empowers both the teacher and students to identify and close learning gaps during the lesson – rather than waiting to confirm students’ learning after the lesson (as in the case of exit tickets).
Educators can create their own classroom systems for student-led formative assessment manually, but technological innovations make the process much easier.
Most formative assessment tech tools are designed for teacher-led formative assessment, which is less effective – but tools that focus on student-led formative assessment, such as the web-based app Student Evidence Tracker, do exist (more on that below).
Student-led formative assessment is when students take an active role in assessing their own learning and tracking their progress toward a learning target during instruction.
Why is student-led formative assessment important for self-regulation in the hybrid classroom?
It is especially difficult to gauge student learning in the hybrid classroom, where many of the tools teachers would normally use (walking around the room, calling on students, etc.) are disrupted, and teachers’ attention is divided between online and onsite learning environments.
But understanding every student’s learning progress is now more urgent than ever – especially considering many students likely fell behind due to COVID related disruptions to the school year.
Educators in hybrid classrooms face a number of urgent questions:
- Are my lessons differentiated to each learning environment and meeting each students’ needs?
- Is my classroom management working as virtual and in-person students request help at the same time?
- Are all my students focused on their own learning, even when my attention is elsewhere?
- Are my students receiving individual feedback and using it to revise their work?
- Are my virtual students engaging and collaborating with in-person peers?
All of these issues can be addressed by focusing on a common root cause – students must be able to self-regulate their own learning.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines self-regulated learning as students “selecting appropriate learning goals which guide the learning process; using appropriate knowledge and skills to direct learning; consciously selecting appropriate learning strategies appropriate to the task at hand; and being motivated to learn” (Artelt et. al, 2003, p. 10).
Students struggle to adapt to hybrid classrooms if they haven’t developed self-regulatory skills. Virtual students often have less supervision and support while learning remotely – and even those in the physical classrooms must deal with their teacher’s attention being more divided than usual.
The good news is that hybrid classrooms can develop self-regulatory skills in students – through student-led formative assessment structures.
Student Evidence Tracker
Getting Students to Self-Assess for Effective Formative Assessment
Teacher-led vs. student-led formative assessment: What the research says
1. Formative assessment interventions are most effective when they focus on student-initiated self-assessment.
How much more powerful is formative assessment when students take the lead?
One research review reported an effect size that meant students who scored at the 50th percentile in the control group would have been at the 61st percentile if their classroom had used formative assessment, and at the 73rd percentile if their classroom had used student-initiated self-assessment (Lee et al., 2020).
A separate research review, that met What Works Clearinghouse standards without reservation, examined formative assessment research data from three sources: educator-directed, computer program-directed, and student-directed. The student-directed formative assessments proved to be the most effective – see figure 1 below (Learning Sciences International, 2020).
Figure 1. Student-directed formative assessment had larger effect sizes compared to other types of formative assessment.
2. Student self-assessment and peer feedback are strongly associated with self-regulated learning.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) recently released a report investigating how teachers’ use of formative assessment practices affects students’ use of self-regulated learning strategies.
The study found that facilitating student self-assessment and peer feedback were most strongly associated with self-regulated learning as compared to other formative assessment practices. However, these two practices were also among the least frequently used by teachers (Makkonen & Jaquet, 2020).
How does student-led formative assessment work?
The key to student-led formative assessment is to activate both partners: the teacher and the student.
Once the teacher creates and shares the learning target for the lesson, the students need to connect what they are doing in the lesson to the learning target.
It is essential that students understand the purpose (what they are learning) of each part of the lesson and associated task. This allows the students to accurately self-assess on their ability to demonstrate the learning target.
As students demonstrate the learning target, the teacher should check-in, looking at student work, and listening to student conversations in order to verify that students’ self-assessment is accurate. Ideally, the teacher also tracks the student evidence so that they can use the data to make future instructional decisions.
The other important piece to student-led formative assessment is that students have an opportunity to make revisions to their work or thinking.
The student-led formative assessment process focuses on the key components that research has shown to be the most effective – harnessing the full power of formative assessment where other (mostly teacher-led) strategies fall short.
The student-led formative assessment process harnesses the full power of formative assessment where other (mostly teacher-led) strategies fall short.
Leveraging technology to embed student-led formative assessment in the hybrid classroom with a web-based app
While it is possible for educators to create their own systems for student-led formative assessment, technological innovations can make the process much easier.
Student Evidence Tracker, for example, is a web-based app designed to greatly reduce the burden of data monitoring for teachers and leaders – and it facilitates the development of students’ self-regulation skills in hybrid classrooms.
Solve the following urgent issues with Student Evidence Tracker:
1. Ensuring all virtual and in-person students are focused on their learning.
Student Evidence Tracker allows teachers to quickly share the learning target and criteria with students on their own devices so that all students have easy access to the learning intentions of the lesson (see figure 2). Students use the learning targets and criteria as a tool to stay focused on their work and self-regulate their learning. Having them available in the app works well in hybrid classrooms so that the teacher does not need to create two different ways to share the learning target with both the virtual and the in-person students. In the teacher’s dashboard (see figure 4), the teacher can also monitor whether virtual students are online and self-assessing by looking at students’ status dots.
Figure 2. An example of a learning target and criteria a teacher has created in Student Evidence Tracker.
2. Encouraging collaboration between virtual and in-person students and maintaining consistency between learning environments.
Students can self-assess and track their progress with the click of a button in Student Evidence Tracker. Whether the students are in-person or virtual, they can check off the criterion (see figure 3). Students will see the same version of the learning target and criteria so that if students are in partners or teams that span virtual/in-person, they can have conversations confident that they are all seeing the same information.
3. Managing multiple requests for help from both virtual and in-person students.
Students can raise their hand within Student Evidence Tracker so that teachers aren’t trying to juggle the in-person hands with the virtual indication of help wanted. All requests from help are indicated through the same place which allows the teacher to juggle one less thing.
Figure 3. An example of what students see in Student Evidence Tracker – they can check off criterion as they work toward the lesson’s learning target. Students can also raise their hand to request assistance.
4. Offering quick individual feedback and allowing students to self-direct revisions.
The teacher verifies that the student work matched their self-assessment and can quickly and easily record their agreement in Student Evidence Tracker. Teachers can also communicate to the student if they haven’t achieved the learning target and need to try again. In a hybrid classroom this is advantageous because students can instantly see when their teacher verifies their learning. A star appears on their screen next to the criterion. This allows quick communication between the teacher and the virtual students without the teacher have one-on-one conversations with each student (see figure 4). Students will also know if they need to revise their work.
Figure 4. An example of what the teacher sees in Student Evidence Tracker. The teacher can click the blue star symbol to accept a student’s self-assessment of whether they achieved the lesson’s learning target. Or, the teacher can click the red X symbol if there is not sufficient evidence, and the student can try again. The teacher can see which students are virtual and if students have raised their hands to request assistance.
Student Evidence Tracker
Getting Students to Self-Assess for Effective Formative Assessment
Student-led formative assessment is effective because it facilitates and supports self-regulated learning in the hybrid classroom
Student-led formative assessment is powerful because it allows the teacher and students to identify and close learning gaps during the lesson.
Using the Student Evidence Tracker, students take an active role in assessing their own learning and tracking their progress toward a learning target during instruction, which research has proven is a more effective process than teacher-led formative assessment alone.
Technology allows seamless implementation of student-led formative assessment for both virtual and in-person learning in a hybrid classroom.
Although hybrid classrooms pose many challenges, teachers also have an opportunity to help their students develop self-regulated learning skills through student-led formative assessment.
Student-led formative assessment is powerful because it allows the teacher and students to identify and close learning gaps during the lesson. Using the Student Evidence Tracker, students take an active role in assessing their own learning … which research has proven is a more effective process than teacher-led formative assessment alone.
- Student Evidence Tracker
- Formative Assessment Virtual Workshops
- Book Studies focusing on Formative Assessment
- Related blog post: Address Learning Loss: Classroom Formative Assessment Tools Aid in Remote Learning – The research base behind formative assessment and how tools like Student Evidence Tracker can improve virtual learning.
- Related blog post: 3 Strategies to Leverage Formative Assessment Techniques in Any Learning Environment: In-person, Virtual, and Hybrid Classrooms – A comprehensive collection of formative assessment strategies and techniques for using Student Evidence Tracker – with adaptations for different learning environments.
- Related blog post: How to Plan for 3 Types of Interaction in the Hybrid Classroom – A guide to using formative assessment interaction strategies in hybrid settings.
- Recorded webinar: 3 Strategies for Formative Assessment in Any Learning Environment
- Related blog post: Why Tracking Student Progress Is Critical to Solving the Achievement Gap: 6 Questions for District Leaders – Most districts miss out on the full benefits of tracking student progress. Use 6 questions to reflect on how formative assessment can solve achievement gaps
Artelt, C., Baumert, J., Julius-McElvany, N., & Peschar, J. (2003). Learners for life: Student approaches to learning: Results from PISA 2000. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. http://www.oecd.org/education/school/programmeforinternationalstudentassessmentpisa/33690476.pdf
Learning Sciences International (2020). Student evidence tracker (SET) ESSA level 4: Monitoring and tracking real-time student progress in any learning environment. https://www.learningsciences.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/LSI52-04-ESSA-Level-4-Paper.pdf
Learning Sciences International Applied Research Center (2020). Walkthrough data from 1378 classrooms [Unpublished]. Learning Sciences International.
Lee, H., Chung, H. Q., Zhang, Y., Abedi, J., & Warschauer, M. (2020). The effectiveness and features of formative assessment in US K-12 education: A systematic review. Applied Measurement in Education, 33(2), 124-140. https://doi.org/10.1080/08957347.2020.1732383
Makkonen, R., & Jaquet, K. (2020). The association between teachers’ use of formative assessment practices and students’ use of self-regulated learning strategies (REL 2021–041). U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory West. Retrieved from https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/projects/project.asp?projectID=4625
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