Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tuesday Tech Tip: Using Schoology for Formative Assessment (Part 3)

Our previous two blog posts focused on the questions "Where am I going" and "Where am I now?"  Today's blog post focuses on the last question: "How do I close the gap?"  As teachers, we can help address this question by providing effective feedback and giving students the opportunity to continue their learning based on the feedback.

According to Chappius and Chappius, "Effective descriptive feedback focuses on the intended learning, identifies specific strengths, points to areas needing improvement, suggests a route of action students can take to close the gap between where they are now and where they need to be, takes into account the amount of corrective feedback the learner can act on at one time, and models the kind of thinking students will engage in when they self-assess." And, it must happen during the learning process, "while there is still time to take action."

Leveraging Rubrics for Learning
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, having assignments or assessment questions tied to specific learning outcomes helps students determine "Where am I going?"  And because those learning outcomes can be used to create rubrics in Schoology, rubrics can help "identify specific strengths" and "point to areas needing improvement."  However, for the rubric to be descriptive, it needs to have more information than default generic headings, like "Excellent" or "Not Proficient."
  1. Be sure to add detailed criteria to your rubric descriptors so that learners understand what "Excellent" means vs. "Good" as neither of these terms are particularly descriptive.  (If you are sharing rubrics with other teachers, remember that you can now share those in Resources.)
  2. You can provide individualized and specific feedback using the comment feature within rubrics (to provide focused feedback about a specific learning target or outcome).
Giving Feedback with Comments Assessments

In addition to giving comments within rubrics, teachers can also give feedback within assignment or assessment submissions.

Student View: Question Comments Available
When grading assessment questions (like in a test or quiz), teachers can see an "Add Comment" icon for each question.  This lets the teacher give feedback specific to the question itself.  On the student side, a comment icon appears next to their submission score, indicating that comments have been given for the questions.  Remember, if it's formative, students need the chance to make improvements.  That means the assessment needs to either be given a "zero" factor or set to allow for retakes.

Giving Feedback with Comments in Assignments
In an assignment, you have even more flexibility.  As the teacher, you can add text comments, record audio or webcam comments, and you can attach files (like models or exemplars to clarify the comment).   The student then add their own comment back to you. These comments are organized by "revision."  Since formative assessment happens before the end of the learning, let students can use your feedback and resubmit an assignment to help "close the gap."

If the student has submitted written work into the assignment, there are also options in the grading window to highight, annotate, draw, and strike-out on the submission.  This lets you give feedback on the writing itself, much like you would with pen & paper.

Finally, remember that "[t]he greatest value in formative assessment lies in teachers and students making use of results to improve real-time teaching and learning at every turn" (Chappius & Chappius).  Letting students know where they are going, where they are  now, and how to close the gap both empowers and gives ownership to students for their own 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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