If you ever read Terry Heick’s blogs over at TeachThought, there’s one that I always circle back to, and that’s his post on the difference between updating and rebooting your classroom. He paints a clear distinction between an update and what a complete reboot might look like. Both certainly have their place, and depending on the teacher and even the school district, one or the other may be more important to achieving desired outcomes.
Here are his thoughts on rebooting a classroom:
Rebooting is a bit more intensive—not necessarily starting from scratch, but something that definitely touches everything you do, and ends up visibly altering the work the students do. Throwing out genre-based units in your ELA classroom. Moving to a full on peer-tutoring model in your classroom. Pitching the math textbooks for Khan Academy skill work and an entry-level Physics MOOC for real-world and hands-on math application. Co-teaching your Spanish class with a teacher from another country on Skype.
Some of the examples of rebooting that he uses are all-out changes in how teachers teach, and others are less ‘disruptive.’ In fact, some are outcomes of using formative assessment techniques and strategies in the way you teach.
- Promote a blend of direct instruction and self-directed learning that uses thematic units
- Help students ask better questions
- Design flexible learning experiences for every student to have the appropriate level of ‘rigor’
- Gamify your classroom where all actions – standards-based or otherwise – are visible to all stakeholders
As we start a new school year, it’s a great time to look for ways to enhance or adapt our teaching to accommodate new curricula or standards. I’d encourage you to look at formative assessment as a way to reinvigorate your teaching and student learning. Here are five ways formative assessment can reboot your classroom:
- There is no shortage of digital formative assessment tools available to help make utilizing the techniques relatively easy and certainly engaging. Our partner, NWEA, has a great post where they share 50 digital education tools and apps for formative assessment success. The list is quite extensive and can accommodate a number of different teaching styles and scenarios.
- Formative assessment has been proven to work. Studies have shown that outcomes from its use help provide students with empowerment and a sense of autonomy, which translate into better student outcomes.
- Use of formative assessment helps teachers ask higher-order questions and promotes wait time (or think time), which increases student engagement and academic achievement.
- Formative assessment helps hone student focus by promoting and implementing all-student response systems.
- A sustained, formal professional development program built on formative assessment techniques and strategies can help improve teacher morale.
The beauty of formative assessment is the vast number of strategies there are available to teachers. There’s no one-size-fits-all, which means that teachers can find the strategies and tactics which best fit their classroom environment. And of course, once you find a few that work well, you’ll want to share them with your colleagues and encourage them to find their own basis for formative assessment success.