Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Formative Assessment Insights Online Course Reflection

I had to write a 1500 page essay on what I learned from my online course that spanned five months, and I decided to make it a blog post complete with some links to evidence of student work. Thanks West Ed for the great opportunity. Teaching Channel: you make great videos with awesome teachers. And I got to watch more video of Dylan Wiliam before I read his book.

Here's a link to an overview of the Feedback loop: 

My classroom practices have been influenced greatly by the Formative Assessments Insights online course by West Ed. I’m glad that I have many examples of how their structure and suggestions allowed me to develop as a teacher and give my students a chance to be a more active participant in their learning by knowing where they stand and where they can go from here. I plan to continue these strategies and by having this summary, I can reference how it was implemented in the past to implement it in the future. I documented my journey on my blog at so others could see how I implemented it. I also enjoyed the collaborative piece of the course where we commented on research articles with other teachers in California, and I got to collaborate over Google Docs with one team member to give and get feedback on the implementation of the course ideas.

I believe I am more equipped to anticipate and uncover my student thinking and respond to it in a more timely manner every day I step into the classroom. The future is bright when I think about the possibilities of what I can achieve with my current and future students. Seeing my students quietly focusing on giving constructive and affirming peer feedback on post it notes during gallery walks was proof I will continue this instructional routine. The activity gathered evidence of what students noticed about each other's parabolas and their features. I want to continue to introduce learning goals to students and establish success criteria with them.

Learning about building blocks was huge because it made me realize that students come from a variety of backgrounds and unfortunately it's best to assume they do not remember the required prerequisite knowledge from the previous grade level. I had already used whiteboards before, but this course reinforced how important they are in getting and giving timely feedback. Asking the right types of questions was a common theme in the videos we viewed.

Interestingly, a prior administrator that observed me advised me to give an exit ticket to inform the next day's instruction. This online course reinforced that and gave students a chance to demonstrate their knowledge in an opportunity where it would not be graded. The next day I prepared the common mistakes and asked students what was wrong with it. I also tried to encourage, when possible, to have students say what was correct about it or going in the right direction. Exit tickets are so vital I realize to meeting students where they are and responding to how they have learned or not learned a concept.

I loved all the videos of the course because I haven't been disappointed before with what I've seen on Teaching Channel. There were some familiar faces even from math teachers on twitter that I saw (Crystal).

The online course was a set of five modules. Actually, there was a Module 0. This was where you setup your Google account to share your work and learn about the Zaption video tours in addition to the NowComment interface when looking at research articles filled with teacher and student dialogue.

The first module asked you for a definition of formative assessment. Before starting the course, I believed it was only ungraded assessments such as quizzes, exit tickets, and having students write their answers on white boards. By Module 1.5, I realized formative assessment wasn’t a type of assignment, it was a complete process and cycle. It was lesson planning, assessing prior knowledge, developing building blocks (small chunks of a standard), anticipating struggles, acting on feedback, changing your plan mid-class or the next day, acting on exit tickets, and much more.

I was introduced to the Feedback Loop in Module 1.8 that addresses three questions: “Where am I going?” This consists of the development of building blocks, learning goals, and success criteria. The next question is “Where am I now?” This is where you elicit evidence of student learning, interpret that evidence, and identify the gap. Finally, “Where to next?” In this last section you take responsive action and close the gap.

In module 1.13, we reflected on a variety of Teaching Channel videos. I learned that developing success criteria with your students after they are introduced to the learning goals empowers students to take ownership of their own learning. The video modeled a growth factor lesson where the teacher was able to meet the needs of various students by allowing room to extend the idea of growth factor. Students achieved the learning goal of identifying that the growth factor was the same for three patterns, but a pair of students went a step further sharing to the class that if you graphed the patterns they would be parallel lines because they had the same growth factors but different starting values or y-intercepts.

In module 1.14, I took a self-assessment, one of the formative assessment tools, and on a scale of 1-4 I rated myself at mostly 2’s and 3’s. Two of my goals I set were to use a variety of strategies to elicit evidence of student learning during class and use assessment more frequently to guide my instruction.

In Module 2, I reflected on videos where they showed a strategy that has worked for me before: turning and talking. In a whole class discussion the teacher wasn’t getting enough participation, so to build students’ confidence she had them turn and talk to confirm their ideas, to get more students to raise their hands. I liked how the teacher elicited evidence of student knowledge by using an online voting system for students to vote on their self-confidence with each success criteria. It allowed students to see which criteria students were confident in and which ones they thought they would need support in. In module 2.4 we wrote our first learning goals and success criteria. In 2.8 I reflected on how determining learning goals and success criteria answers the 3 questions of the Feedback Loop. Where am I going? The learning goals keep the end goal in mind and develop an accessible way to describe the concept or skill. The success criteria specifies what the students must demonstrate to show they achieved the learning goal. Where am I now? Learning goals help uncover prior knowledge and allow students to reference them during the lesson for academic language. Success criteria is a chance for students to self-assess or be assessed by a peer to see where they are with the success criteria. Where to next? The learning goals tell the teacher whether they will revisit or build upon a standard.

In Module 2.14, I reflected on keeping my English Language Learners and IEP students in mind prior to teaching a unit or lesson when developing the building books. I will continue to revisit the Common Core math progressions to see where students are coming from and where they are going. I noted that success criteria appears to be material that could be used on a summative assessment. Learning goals allow me to sequence the presentation of different students understanding of separate goals. Building blocks, learning goals, and success criteria are the 3 components that form the foundation of formative assessment because this work is done prior to teaching. They provide front loaded academic vocabulary and references for students throughout the day and week. All students want to know what they’re expect to learn and how they can demonstrate that knowledge. This is what learning goals and success criteria achieve. Students don’t want to be confused about what they do or do not know, and neither do we as teachers.

In Module 2.15, I developed building blocks for a standard, 8.F.4 that dealt with linear functions and their rate of change and starting points. One of the building blocks was color coding the growth of their pattern. Before writing the building blocks, I researched relevant prior knowledge by visiting the Common Core Math standards progressions ( and learned that in 6th grade students had worked with equivalent ratios in tables and in graphs. In 7th grade students investigated k as the constant of proportionality in the equation, table, and graph of y=kx, as well as looking at proportional and nonproportional situations. In 8th grade they will eventually find the growth between two ordered pairs. The first building block was  “in a tile pattern the number of tiles added from one figure to the next is the growth factor, or m in y=mx+b which is the vertical height of the slope triangle” and “in a tile pattern the number of tiles in Figure 0 is the parameter b in y=mx+b and when graphed the y-intercept.” We developed the success criteria in class that involved both of these ideas in each of the multiple representations. After that, I setup a coordinate plane with them on a whiteboard and asked them to graph a linear equation. This was my pre-assessment so I could see where and which students would need further guidance. The great aspect was the success criteria being on the board for students to reference, as well as the learning goals. They then worked in their composition books and posted a picture of their work on a blog post. I documented the development of the success criteria with students at (

In Module 3.4 I added formative assessment strategies as part of the Eliciting Evidence section of the Feedback Loop. My strategies were whiteboard pre-assessment and a blog post summarizing their understanding. In Module 3.8 I watched videos to find evidence and application of five routines: activating prior knowledge, academic dialogue, questioning, observations and analysis of student work, and peer and self-assessment. In one video I liked how students used cards with terms on them to construct their own algebraic expressions to simplify rather than a worksheet of practice problems. They had ownership of the problem and their own learning in their small groups. The academic dialogue I saw was comparing and contrasting solving strategies. In my class I name a student’s method when it’s presented and students refer to it by that name. The teacher in the video used questioning to get students to analyze the complexities and simplicities of different strategies (critiquing the reasoning of others). A student tactfully critiqued another student’s graph with a question: “If the ball is at 0 height wouldn’t it be negative height when he dropped the ball? I applaud my students when I see them ask a question rather than say “that’s wrong!” This is also where I saw the clipboard with the class roster attached to the success criteria to help analyze students work in the moment. Finally, I saw self assessment when a teacher taught a mini lesson and had students assess as A, B, or C. C meant you could start your work independently, B was I have some clarifying questions, and A was I may need the mini lesson repeated. In module 3.15, I liked seeing a teacher use a graphic organizer to chunk out the creative process so students were not overwhelmed by the number of steps.

In module 4.3 I constructed building blocks for a new lesson on transformations. I elicited evidence when developing success criteria with students doing reciprocal teaching, pretending their partner was absent and explaining their thinking. I used a clipboard with success criteria to select 3 different students to address different learning goals. I sequenced the presentations by easier learning goal to most difficult. In module 4.4 I reflected on how my lesson addressed the Fundamentals of Learning: Making Meaning, Participating and Contributing, and Managing Learning. Building blocks help students work within their zone of proximal development and advance their learning forward. In module 4.10 I took notes on the seven “Deliberate Acts of Teaching:” modeling, prompting, questioning, giving feedback, telling, explaining, and directing. These reminded me of some of the Talk Moves I’ve implemented in my class.

Students were introduced to a learning goal and then developed success criteria by explaining to their elbow partner the requirements to accurately describe a specific transformation. After developing the success criteria, many students referred back to it during the lesson to help with their explanations. The clipboard I had with the success criteria on it allowed me to seek out who I wanted to present their thinking, and it helped direct my attention to the specific evidence I was looking for.

Students practiced peer assessment with post it notes during a Gallery Walk after a formative assessment lesson on Quadratic equations:

Students made video screencasts in partnerships after working through a Desmos Marbleslides activity to see how modifying parts of y=a(x-h)^2+k changed how the graph behaved.

In Module 5 I loved the Classroom Culture Inventory. I self-assessed on these aspects of my classroom: modeling of peer and self-assessment, establish norms, collaboratively creating learning goals & success criteria, model careful listening, reveal student thinking, model mistakes as a learning resource, act on descriptive feedback, and having students be responsible for their learning. I’m glad that I’ve seen evidence of all of these during the course of this year. I want to implement more self-assessment moving forward. I liked the suggestion to not make constant eye contact with the speaker and look at the whole room to encourage students to talk to the room, and not just to the teacher. Finally I went back to my self-assessment from Module 1 and was glad to see that I rated myself higher after completing the course.

My next steps are to print these checklists and inventories like Classroom Culture out and have them displayed near my desk or in a binder where I document how I am implementing these formative assessment insight strategies. I also want to reuse the building blocks I develop and add to them after teaching it again in the future. I’m so glad I took this course and have so many more tools and resources to use.

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