Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Using Schoology for Formative Assessment (Part 1)

We're hearing quite a bit of assessment talk these days, and with PARCC and SBAC happening across the nation, almost all of that talk surrounds summative assessment.  While summative assessment has its place (especially in the area of school, district, or state accountability), formative assessment is one of the most powerful tools teachers have when it comes to impacting student learning (Black, Paul, and Dylan Wiliam. Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Granada Learning, 1998).

Much of what we do in the classroom can be used either formatively or summatively, but according to Atkin, Black, & Coffey (2001), formative assessments specifically help address 3 questions for learners:
  1. Where am I going? 
  2. Where am I now? 
  3. How can I close the gap?  
In today's blog post, we're going to look at how Schoology can help us with that first question (subsequent blog posts will focus on the other two questions).

Where Am I Going?  Using Custom Learning Objectives

Critical to the formative assessment process is a clear understanding of learning targets -- and "clear" means in student-friendly language. Your best bet for student-friendly objectives or targets is to create your own in Schoology. (See Schoology's help article on how to create custom learning outcomes).

Once you have created your own (or used existing standards), you can tie those to rubrics, assignments, discussion board responses, and assessment questions,   You can also create criteria on the fly in rubrics, but those won't be tracked for student progress.  

Additionally, if you have an existing document with learning objectives in something like a Google Doc, a PDF in Google Drive, or a Word document, you can always embed the document or upload the file for students to access.

Where Am I Going?  Providing Exemplars

In addition to providing students with clear learning targets, providing examples of high level work also helps students understand where they are going.  Schoology is very flexible in terms of what you can upload and embed, and remember that something doesn't have to exist digitally to be shared digitally.  If you have something 3 dimensional or in hard copy, use a mobile device to capture it.  Anything captured can then be shared for students to access.

Here are just a few suggestions for sharing exemplars:
  • Create a Collection in Personal resources to save student exemplars from year to year (and share that Collection with your PLC or grade level team if you are all contributing examples or use a folder in a Group).  You can then add those to any course or course folder to show students.
  • Create a Media Album in your course or group for sharing student exemplars (this is especially effective for images or video content).  Add notes or captions about each exemplar to give more detail (or ask students to add their own comments about the examples).
  • Create a page in a course or group to embed multiple web-based projects or examples (e.g. Prezi, ThingLink, WeVideo, etc.).  This allows you to put several examples on a single page with space for commentary, if needed.
  • Grab a snippet or a paragraph via screen cap of submitted assignments in Schoology's Document Viewer.  You can either take a screen cap with annotations included or turn them off.  Either way, taking a screen cap means that you can grab the part you want without also revealing a student name.
  • Create a Discussion Board for exemplars (which can contain embedded content or uploaded files) and encourage student reflection on what makes something an exemplar.
When using formative assessments with students, regardless of the medium, be sure to start with that first question: where are they going?  Schoology can help both you and your students address that question for learning.


Atkin, J. M., Black, P., & Coffey, J. (2001). Classroom assessment and the national science standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Black, Paul, and Dylan Wiliam. Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Granada Learning, 1998.

Chappius, Steven, and Chappius, Jan. "The Best Value in Formative Assessment - ASCD." 2010. 14 Apr. 2015 <http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec07/vol65/num04/The-Best-Value-in-Formative-Assessment.aspx>

Moss, Connie M., and Susan M. Brookhart. "Lay of the Land." Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom a Guide for Instructional Leaders. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2009.

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