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How to Succeed with Formative Assessment in Distance Learning

Many education systems around the world are dependent on a combination of formative and summative assessments in order to measure and promote student progress. Whereas summative assessment can be handled relatively easily even in distance learning situations, formative assessment can be a challenge, as it is heavily dependent on teacher-student and student-student interaction.

Formative assesment in distance learning(1)

So how can teachers address this issue successfully in remote learning situations?

Assessment OF learning and assessment FOR learning

Formative assessment aims to serve as a stepping stone and guide for further learning and development. Learning is seen as a process, not as a product. Interaction, detailed feedback and dialog between teachers and students or between peers are the cornerstones of formative assessment. They are the means teachers use to promote deeper understanding of the educational material and to encourage and support students in refining and tweaking their work. It is an assessment FOR learning.

Summative assessment, on the other hand, is meant to assess whether students have acquired the knowledge and skills required of them at the end of a period, such as a term or the school year. Exams are a typical example of summative assessment. Summative assessment is an assessment OF learning.

Formative assessment in distance learning

In situations where students and teachers are spread out geographically, it can seem difficult to maintain the dialogue that is crucial to provide formative assessment.

However, with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be a problem. It can even be an opportunity for even more meaningful learning.

Maintaining students’ interest and engagement is perhaps the first hurdle that teachers will need to overcome. Digital tools such as NUITEQ Snowflake, that activate students and encourage them to participate, can turn students from passive listeners to active learners.

At the beginning of a lesson, make sure students understand what they are expected to learn. Explain the steps required to get there. Have students repeat these expectations either orally or in writing, synchronously or asynchronously to make sure they have understood.

Check for pre-existing knowledge to establish where each student is. A great, quick way to do this is by using Poll, our student response system that lets students answer your questions in several ways, including text and image. This will help you address the specific needs of each student and identify areas of development.

During the lesson, keep monitoring students’ progress by asking them questions or by sending Snowflake lesson activities to their accounts. These activities provide students with immediate feedback and teachers get an overview of the graded responses automatically. This will allow teachers to make adjustments as needed.

Teachers can even provide clear, concise feedback to these activities during or after the lesson, either by text, video or an audio recording through the form provided in the website. This feedback will then be the basis for further adjustments or work on the students’ part.

To encourage discussion and challenge students’ thinking, share your screen while using a Snowflake activity and go through it together. The Cards lesson activity type, for example, is excellent for asking open ended questions and having discussions in the classroom or in a remote setting.

At the end of the lesson, use Poll again to check for student understanding of your lesson. This can then be used as the basis for future lesson planning.

Summing up
Formative assessment is a powerful tool that teachers can use to promote learning. Teachers in remote learning settings undoubtedly face the challenge of diminished human interaction, which is necessary in order to provide formative feedback. Thankfully, by using online resources such as NUITEQ Snowflake, teachers can not only overcome the barriers of distance learning but also provide formative, meaningful feedback that helps students grow and improve.

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