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Classroom Assessment – Broken down into a simple Q&A

kids working

Q: What does it mean to assess?  

A: Assessing is simply taking a measurement of progress, knowledge, or mastery.

Q: How do formative and summative assessments differ?

A: Formative assessments are used periodically throughout the instructional/learning process to determin progress.  Summative assessments are given at the end of a unit of instruction to show mastery.

Q: Why might a pre-assessment be used?  

A: Pre-assessments are great tools to take a quick read on where the students are prior to learning.  They can show the teacher which areas need more focus.

Q: What are some good assessment methods?  

A: Prea-ssessments could be given using a traditional quiz, KWL charts, quick writes, or just an informal classroom discussion.

Formative assessments can be given using a variety of methods and resources, as well.  See this article to find my five favorite methods. (You will notice that a multiple-choice quiz is nowhere near that list.)

Summative assessments can be in the form of a final project to demonstrate mastery (i.e. piece of writing, artwork, musical composition, multimedia presentation, live demonstration).

Q: What does the teacher do with the data collected?

A:  Ideally, the teacher uses the data to guide his/her own teaching.  Are the students ready to move on?  Is there an area that needs to be retaught using a different method/resource?  Are there trends rising to the top?  Are there students who need some one-on-one help?

Q: What does the student do with the data collected?  

A: Ideally, the students uses the data to guide his/her own learning.  If assessments are valid tools, and teachers give valuable feedback (in a timely manner), then they can be utilized to shape the students’ knowledge and skills acquisition.

Five Favorite Formative Assessment Tools

formative assessment

I hope all educators would agree on the importance of formative assessment.  What we might disagree on is the method for assessing.  Maybe you have your “quizzes” all made up from previous years.  Maybe your district requires everyone to administer the same assessments.  Or maybe, you are always looking for new (and engaging) ways to take the temperature of your class.  If that’s you, you might like these digital tools.

  1. Google Forms – I love Google Drive, so it seems natural to include two quick ideas for formative assessment from Google Apps.  The first one is easy.  Create a Google form with any questions you are wanting to check.  You can quickly view the responses in a spreadsheet, or in graphs to surmise real-time what needs to be review before moving on.
  2. Google Slides – You might not have thought of using Google Slides as a formative assessment tool.  My favorite way for a quick check is to share out a presentation that you have created to the class (use Google Classroom for easiest/quickest whole-class sharing).  The students are assigned one slide to demonstrate learning.  For example, you just taught a writing mini lesson on writing strong leads.  Each student has to type their lead onto a Google Slide within the class presentation you have shared.  Then (and here is the powerful piece), each student has to read and comment on three other slides.  If there are already three comments on that slide, they have to move to a different one.  So, you can read all the leads in one place, but the students can also get peer review and advice.
  3. Kahoot – Kahoot can be used for review and/or formative assessments.  Students have fun using this interactive website to show what they know.  An awesome feature is that there are pre-made Kahoots that you can access or create your own.
  4. EdPuzzle – This is a tool I just recently discovered, but the ways to use it are endless.  There are Chrome, iOS, and Android apps.  You can clip a video from multiple sources (YouTube, Khan, etc) and add your own questions at different stop points along the play time.  This ensures better student engagement, and allows you to check for understanding, too.
  5. Padlet – Picture a posterboard where students can slap a sticky note to show learning.  Padlet is the digital version.  In addition to adding quick notes, though, they can embed videos, add images, and links.  The teacher can pose a question, and students prove their learning on the shared Padlet.  It’s both, easy and quick.

It was a bit difficult for me to choose just five resources.  There are many, many tools designed specifically for formative assessment, but there are endless possibilities when you look at old tools in new ways.  So, try something new to drive your instruction and engage students in their own learning.  As always, feel free to share your favorite resources in the comment section!

Google Image Maps

As I watched this YouTube video by Christ Betcher, my mind started jumping to all of the possible ways  to use Google Image Maps in different classrooms.


Here were my ideas:

  • Reading/English classes (any age) – Students can create a drawing (or insert a picture) containing main characters from the passage.  They could link each character to a Google doc that they have created with character traits and/or the character’s role in the story.
  • Social Studies – Same as above only using specific historical figures
  • Geography – Use a picture of a map and link websites to each region that gives specific information about that area.
  • Science – Use a diagram (i.e. cell with parts labeled).  Students would then link each label to either a Google Doc that they have created describing that part, or to a reliable website that gives more information.
  • Animal Science – Same as above, labeling different organs of an animal and the roles those organs play.
  • Anatomy and Physiology – Same idea using the human body
  • Art – Students create a collage of different artists’ works and link websites that give background information about the artist and/or that particular piece of art.

These were the ones that quickly came to mind.  Please comment and share how you could use Google Image Maps in your classroom.  I’m anxious to see ideas that I haven’t thought of.

Quality #assessments – Final Exams?

I’m a people-pleaser.  I’ve been told that by many people (again already this morning, actually).  When I was a student that translated into being a high-achieving teacher-pleaser.  I was a good test taker.  I took good notes, I studied, and I crammed right up until the paper tests were passed out.  I got good grades, got into a good college, and have established a good career.  However, I am not sure that those tests really showed the measure of my learning for that semester.  I mean really, how much do I use the theorems I learned in geometry?  Or, how relevant are the facts from the Spanish-American war in my daily life?  Not much.  I either learned the facts just long enough to take the test, or I regurgitated stuff that I already knew prior to the class.  So that brings me to my point…are multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank exams worth the time they take to create and grade (for the teacher), and to study for and take (for the student)?

I love how the teachers at the Science and Leadership Academy in Philadelphia assess learning.  Students produce capstone projects that demonstrate growth and learning from the year.  They present and defend their creations.  These students have taken learning and actively applied it to real life and real passions.  They won’t quickly forget the lessons that led into these projects.  This is authentic and relevant education at its best.

Assessments…what’s the point?

It seems like I have been inundated with assessments since my first day as a new curriculum director.  First it was being trained (and then training) on mClass and Acuity.  How do we give the assessment?  How do we read the reports?  How do we use the reports to guide classroom instruction and RtI?  Then, with the Common Core standards, it has been learning the standards, deconstructing the standards, and using them to write quality assessments.  I’m reading articles about formative assessments, receiving training on “evidence of learning”, leading teachers through writing higher-level-thinking assessments from which they will be evaluated for the new teacher compensation model, and I’m currently reading Formative Assessments & Standards-Based Grading by Robert Marzano (not exactly pleasure-reading material).

As a former second-grade teacher, I conducted unobtrusive assessment (Marzano term that I’m putting into practice!) all day long.  This type of assessing played a major role in my writer’s workshop conferring.  I used performance assessments weekly to evaluate my students’ reading growth.  Both of these grades were given based on their growth and mastery over the grading period.  However, I would say all of my obtrusive assessments were summative.  My grading in math was done averaging scores from throughout the grading period.  How did this benefit my students?  I’m learning the great power in formative assessments and the larger benefit of standards-based grading.

Are athletes scored on their practices?  Are dancers reviewed on what they do during rehearsals?  Of course not, so why do educators continue to penalize students on the work they did on their way to mastering the content?  Assessments should guide a teacher on what to do to remediate, challenge or move on with each individual student.  Giving points for homework, participation, and attendance does little to tell where that student is on learning each particular strategy/skill/standard.

Do we continue to do what we’ve always done, or do we change for the betterment of our teaching and the learning of our students?