2 birds with 1 stone

“If you can both listen to (students) and accept their answers not as things to only be judged right or wrong but as pieces of information which may reveal what the (student) is thinking, you will have taken a giant step toward becoming a master teacher, rather than merely a disseminator of information.” -Easley & Zwoyer, 1975

Two of the biggest buzzwords in education: Assessment and Engagement.

We have a tendency to associate the term “assessment” with “tests”. But, it is sooooo much more. If I were to define assessment in layman terms, I would describe is as “putting your feelers out”.  While in the midst of a lesson have you ever thought to yourself, “They just aren’t getting it”? Think back to that moment. How did you know your students weren’t “getting it”? Believe it or not, the “how” in this situation is a type of assessment, properly known as Formative Assessment.

Feedback is the heart of formative assessment.  When we, the educator, are conducting a formative assessment we are ultimately asking for feedback from the student. Student feedback provides us with information to gauge where our students are in the moment versus where we want them to be.  Feedback is essential, it allows us to tweak, modify, or change our pace to ensure student success and understanding. Now– hold that thought.

Our students want to play an active role in their education.  They do not want to be passive learners, commonly called the “sit-n-get” approach.  Engaging the learners is more than being a great lecturer; the students need to interact on their level and in a way which is meaningful to them.

Making a connection

Begin every class session with a question.  Introduce your topic by polling the class on the lesson topic before the lesson. It encourages active participation from your students.  It turns the lights on inside their heads.  They are ready.  You now know where they stand.  

Make every student a participant. This where engaging the learner comes into play and can be as easy as having every student raise their hand. Better yet, put a device in their hand.

  • Clickers have made a successful debut onto higher ed campuses over the last few years.  Students can respond in a variety of formats from multiple choice to open-ended.
  • A free web application, Poll Everywhere allows student to respond to questions mobile devices and tablets into the clickers.  Students can respond with their cell phones!

Respond to their responses. You’ve asked the question and gathered the information. You know where the students stand, you have their attention. What are you going to do about it? Take this opportunity to bring in a connection from the previous lesson, start a discussion, start over, move ahead!  Their responses can now guide you in a direction that best fits the needs of your learners.

Articles on Formative Assessment and Engagement

Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and 7 principles of good feedback practice

Techniques to engage the online learner

The value of formative assessment in higher education

Clickers and Peer Instruction: A powerful way to improve student engagement and learning-but only if you do it right