5 Strategies for formative assessment using tech tools

5 Evidence-based formative assessment strategies using tech tools

December 12, 2023Adam Franklin

By integrating evidence-based formative assessment strategies, educators gain a clear picture of student comprehension during lessons, allowing them to make timely instructional adjustments. Additionally, the inclusion of technology in the classroom has significantly enhanced the effectiveness of formative assessments. In this blog post, we’ll delve into formative assessment benefits and explore how digital tools can facilitate real-time evaluation, offering educators valuable tools to optimize teaching strategies.

Why is formative assessment important?

Formative assessment fosters active student participation and provides immediate insights into their understanding. Mastering formative assessment strategies will help your students showcase their knowledge of and reflect on the material taught while providing the teacher with insight into their understanding. When teachers ask students to demonstrate their understanding through formative assessment during a lesson regularly, students become active in the learning experience and are able to cement or apply their knowledge. Through this instant feedback, teachers can tailor their instruction on the spot to immediately meet the needs of their students based on these insights.

How to use technology for formative assessments

We know the instructional value of consistent formative assessment in the classroom, but it has become a demanding practice to implement regularly for teachers with competing priorities. That is… until smart devices came into the picture. In fact, Ian Beatty at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst was one of the first to illustrate how personal smart devices in the hands of teachers and students could dramatically transform the ability to deliver and analyze the results of formative assessment. The integration of technology in the classroom provides teachers with real-time feedback that can be used to inform instructional decisions. Teachers can create personalized learning experiences, get immediate feedback on student learning, and conduct data-driven instruction, which can result in an improvement in student outcomes and engagement. Nearpod provides real-time insights into student understanding through interactive lessons, interactive videos, gamification, and activities — all in a single platform.

The research and benefits of formative assessment in Nearpod

Teacher using data driven instruction on Nearpod to help students during class

The original platform design of Nearpod was inspired by a growing body of research around the positive impacts of consistent formative assessment and best practices for implementing them (Engle & Conant, 2002). In the beginning, teachers could facilitate Nearpod lessons from their devices that synchronized informational slides and a few options for formative assessments (open-ended questions, multiple choice quizzes, or polls) on student devices. As the educational landscape evolves, Nearpod has consistently enriched its suite of formative assessment tools with evidence-based solutions, supporting educators in adapting to the changing classroom environment.

Nearpod allows teachers to monitor real-time formative assessment data and share individual responses with the rest of the class, making students more eager to demonstrate their understanding. Also, teachers can access formative assessment data after any session in their post-session reports or on their teacher dashboard during instruction to monitor student progress. Now, Nearpod offers nine types of formative assessments to check for understanding in any lesson!

New to Nearpod? Teachers can sign up for free below to access these resources, interactive activities, and engaging lessons. Administrators can schedule a call with an expert to unlock the full power of Nearpod for schools and districts.

5 Evidence-based formative assessment strategies using tech tools

1. Provide diverse assessment options to keep students interested

No matter how beneficial a formative assessment may be, doing the same thing over and over can get repetitive and have a negative impact on classroom engagement. Truly effective formative assessments should deploy a variety of tasks to measure student understanding (Ames, 1992). Diverse delivery of assessment is associated with strong cognitive and emotional gains in students (McLaughlin & Yan, 2017). This research inspired the Nearpod team to build out a more comprehensive suite of interactive assessments that could be added to a Nearpod lesson. Nearpod added Fill-in-the-blanks and Matching Pairs to better scaffold student work and responses for identifying and define-level assessments. 

Matching Pairs formative assessment activity

2. Provide opportunities for collaboration and creation

The introduction of the Collaborate Board allowed students to see and interact with peer-written responses, recreating the concept of a digital instructional “parking lot” and updating responses in real time on teacher dashboards. One study from 2010 showed that opportunities to “doodle” during a learning experience increased the likelihood of information retention (Andrade, 2010). The Draw It tool was created as a way to empower students who prefer expressing their understanding creatively. Students can submit drawings on a blank canvas or a background image uploaded by the teacher. The feature quickly became a teacher and student favorite!

Draw It activity, drawing tools for formative assessment, to graph lines
Collaborate Board formative assessment

3. Use reference media to support and scaffold student learning

For each interactive assessment, we try our best to remove any potential impediments from answering a question. One study found greater access to requisite background knowledge enhances online assessment outcomes (Fuchs et al., 2000). Accordingly, Nearpod developed the ability for teachers to add reference media, such as an image, a video, a website, or even an audio recording of a teacher’s voice, as an attachment to interactive assessments to give more background information.

Reference media example to use the benefits of formative assessments

4. Promote inclusivity and reduce biases during instruction

Not every student is willing to raise their hand publicly, and this popular method of questioning means many are left behind during formative assessments. Student-response systems increase participation and draw out reluctant participants. (Graham et al., 2007) Nearpod developed the optional feature to make student responses anonymous in order to promote increased participation and reduce feelings of vulnerability (Caldwell, 2007). In Nearpod lessons, the barriers to entry for participating are reduced compared to raising your hand in class.

One study found that teachers can maximize learning outcomes and promote inclusivity by allowing students to submit audio recordings in lieu of written responses (Dalton, Herbert, & Daysher, 2003). Nearpod has a feature whereby students can submit audio responses to an open-ended question. Cheryl Staats argues that every educator enters the classroom with some degree of implicit bias, manifesting itself in who gets called on, who is believed in, and general classroom attitudes (2016). It can be a hard thing to spot in oneself, let alone curb entirely, but technology can play a pivotal role in democratizing classroom participation and formative assessment strategies.

Audio responses for open-ended questions as tools for formative assessment

5. Incorporate educational games

Educational games create engaging, fun, and valuable learning experiences for students. These types of formative assessment tech tools help build 21st-century social skills and problem-solving skills and build community, all while learning and boosting student achievement. Games are most effective when well-planned and integrated into learning objectives. With Time to Climb, you can include an existing Nearpod lesson or use it as a quick stand-alone activity. Students compete to get to the top of a mountain by answering a series of questions correctly and quickly to become one of the top three winners of the game. Teachers can choose a setting, and students select a character. It’s a teacher and student favorite!

Students playing Time to Climb on their devices while the game is on the projector

Start using Nearpod’s formative assessments

Formative assessment, especially with tools like Nearpod, has transformed traditional teaching methods. Teachers have attested to the fact that more students participate and participate consistently in Nearpod lessons compared to traditional lessons. Nearpod’s evolution showcases its commitment to supporting teachers with effective tools. Embracing technology-driven formative assessment not only enriches learning but also fosters an inclusive and adaptable educational environment where each student can thrive.

Foster a love of learning in every student with Nearpod. Teachers can sign up for free below to access and create interactive lessons. Administrators can schedule a call with an expert to unlock the full power of Nearpod for schools and districts.

Works Cited in Research Base

Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education: principles, policy & practice, 5(1), 7-74.

Engle, R. A., & Conant, F. R. (2002). Guiding principles for fostering productive disciplinary engagement: Explaining an emergent argument in a community of learners classroom. Cognition and instruction, 20(4), 399-483.

Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms: Goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of educational psychology, 84(3), 261.

McLaughlin, T., & Yan, Z. (2017). Diverse delivery methods and strong psychological benefits: A review of online formative assessment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 33(6), 562-574.

Andrade, J. (2010). What does doodling do?. Applied Cognitive Psychology: The Official Journal of the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 24(1), 100-106.

Fuchs, L. S., Fuchs, D., Karns, K., Hamlett, C. L., Dutka, S., & Katzaroff, M. (2000). The importance of providing background information on the structure and scoring of performance assessments. Applied Measurement in Education, 13(1), 1-34.

Graham, C. R., Tripp, T. R., Seawright, L., & Joeckel, G. (2007). Empowering or compelling reluctant participators using audience response systems. Active Learning in Higher Education, 8(3), 233-258.

Caldwell, J. E. (2007). Clickers in the large classroom: Current research and best-practice tips. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 6(1), 9-20.

Dalton, B. D., Herbert, M., & Deysher, S. (2003, December). Scaffolding students’ response to digital literature with embedded strategy supports: The role of audio-recording vs. writing student response options. Paper presented at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the National Reading Conference, Scottsdale, AZ.

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