Formative Assessment

You may not want to wait for end-of-course questionnaires to get feedback about teaching and learning.

Some key points to consider about formative assessments

  • they can be carried out at any point during the course
  • they can lead to changes in teaching methods
  • they can be conducted in order to enhance teaching and improve learning
  • they are  initiated and controlled by the teacher in terms of content, timing, frequency and follow-up

Formative feedback can be drawn from three sources:

  • Students
  • Yourself
  • Colleagues

Information from Students

Since it is student learning you are responsible for, receiving ongoing feedback from your students about how the class is going will allow you to determine what is and isn’t working. With this information you will be in a better position to make adjustments where necessary.

Some ways to collect information from students include:

  • distributing short forms of two or three questions which focus on aspects of your teaching you want to learn more about
  • asking students at the end of class to write down one or two of the key concepts dealt with during the lesson and one or two concepts they need more help with
  • asking students to submit possible exam or assignment questions
  • creating a Suggestion Box where students can drop their ideas

One-Minute Questionnaire

A specific approach to gaining student feedback is the one-minute questionnaire. As the name suggests, one-minute questionnaires are simple to design and quick and easy to administer.

Procedure for the “One-Minute” Questionnaire

  • Write one or two questions on the board, on an overhead transparency, or have the questions ready on paper.
  • Tell the students to answer in one or two sentences.
  • Take the responses in and read them after class to get “instant” feedback on what the students got out of that day’s class.

Sample Questionnaire

  1. What was the most useful thing you learned in today’s class?
  2. What was the learning goal of today’s lesson and what did you learn about it?
  3. What questions remain in your mind after today’s class?

Word of Warning

  • Design the form so that it contains no more than one or two questions.
  • Schedule the assessment to give you enough time to make needed changes.
  • Follow up with a second assessment to see whether the changes you’ve made have been successful.

One Minute Memos

  • Dr. John Thompson's "one minute memo," a means of measuring student comprehension and obtaining student feedback. Example of a one minute memo.

Information from Yourself

When reflecting on and assessing your teaching it should always be done in the context of student learning. Here are some questions to help guide you in this process.

  1. What evidence do I have that my teaching approach addresses the learning needs of my students?
  2. What evidence do I have that students understand the goals of the course?
  3. What evidence do I have that indicates what students have learned after the first, second, third… lesson?
  4. What evidence do I have that indicates I begin and end class effectively?
  5. What evidence do I have that indicates I emphasize main points effectively?
  6. What evidence do I have that indicates student participation in class discussion is deepening their understanding of key concepts?
  7. What evidence do I have that indicates my assignments and exams are accurate measures of the goals for the course?

Information from Colleagues

Peer consultation is a voluntary, confidential process that can benefit all teachers. A peer consultation involves working with a peer to explore and enhance your teaching. Peer consultation is designed to make the teacher feel comfortable because it is the teacher who drives the process:

  • initiating it
  • deciding on the timing of the observation
  • selecting the aspects of teaching to be observed
  • choosing the consultant in terms of preferred gender and discipline

Some reasons you might consider using a peer consultation include:

  • obtaining feedback on changes you have made in a course, e.g., the introduction of case-based instruction, a new teaching resource, a new assessment tool;
  • discovering what is working well and why it is working in a particular course; and,
  • discussing new ideas and innovations in teaching with a peer.