Necesito un Momento para Pensar: I need a minute to think (about formative assessment)

This spring, I am fortunate enough to have the experience of living in Spain for a month. One of my goals for this time period is to become at least somewhat functional in the Spanish language. This has also proven the perfect opportunity to think about formative assessment. I came to Spain armed with (according to Memrise) about 1,000 words/phrases, so it should be a piece of cake. But going out into the world and trying to figure out how to ask where the vinegar is or how to get your parking validated is far different from regurgitating well-worn phrases. Every moment that I am around town is a formative assessment. Not only are the well-rehearsed phrases put to the test, but my ability to transfer my known words and understanding of grammatical structures to new situations is constantly being challenged. And after each interaction, there is a self-evaluation that goes on: “What did I get right? What did I miss?,” and most importantly, “What do I need to learn for next time?” In this way, my forays into the tiendas and supermercados of Calpe act as a formative assessment, testing my background knowledge and opening new pathways for further learning.

With formative assessment in mind, this week I began working on an Assessment Design Checklist. This checklist would be used to evaluate a formative assessment. There were three areas where I focused my attention:

  • Focusing on the big ideas: does the assessment address the most important and salient ideas in the topic and field for which it is written?
  • Providing actionable data: does the assessment provide the instructor with information regarding the student’s background knowledge, experience, and expectations that can help craft a better learning experience?
  • Priming and goal-setting: Does the assessment give some indication to students as to the big ideas and key skills that the unit will be covering and does it provide opportunities for the student to reflect on their personal goals for learning?

I am excited to continue reflecting on how formative assessment can be a vital part of the learning process and refining my tools for creating and evaluating assessments.

Here is a link to the Formative Assessment Checklist

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