Formative assessment in Science

A couple of days ago I wrote that I was at a conference over the weekend titled “Formative Assessment” by Dylan Wiliam.  In the context of that workshop Dylan shared with us over 65 techniques for completing formative assessment in the classroom.  He then challenged us to select one to three techniques that we would implement in the classroom over the next year.  I took the challenge and integrated formative assessment into my classroom this week.  It did extend the lesson time by 30 minutes but it was worth it. Here is a summary of the experience:

I used:

-       Whiteboards for students to individually commit to answers and for me to complete formative assessment on where the class was to determine where to take the lesson.

-Questioning for diagnostic assessment AND to promote discussion

-       Finger voting for students to individually commit to answers in order for me to determine understanding.

-       Hot seat questioning to help a student correct misconceptions

-       Restatements of how a student voted.  Just like in the videos, my students responded to these restatements with an explanation of their train of thought in arriving to their conclusion.  I did not have to ask a single question.  I just had to wait for their response.  Amazingly, they continued to talk until they felt they had completely explained their thinking.   I uncovered so much information but most importantly how their brains were processing information that day.  It was electrifying.

My students:

-       At first were unsure about this new process, asking, “Is this a test?” and furtively looking their peers’ whiteboards

-       Then the fear departed and an excitement to participate and understand entered in.

-       No longer were students concerned with what others were writing.  They were focused on their engagement with the concepts.

-       They inadvertently exposed misconceptions

-       They equally were able to inadvertently clear up misconceptions

-       My students LEARNED!

-       My students developed understanding!

-       My students progressed!

-       And, as a total bonus, they enjoyed the process exclaiming, “That was fun”

Now I am confidant they all know what diffusion and osmosis are and can clearly describe the difference. Furthermore, they are truly ready for an osmosis lab during their next class.  And, I am determined to continue implementing these techniques into all my lessons until they are second nature.