A Simple Tool for Formative Assessment
I usually start my class sessions asking students to pick up a paper with a question from a simple box or basket. Students do not know if the question is the same one for the whole class or not. Students do not know if the question is from a content previously discussed or a content to be discussed in this session. Students do not know if the question will be returned to the instructor after 3-5 minutes and contribute with a point for the next exam (if the answer is correct) or the question(s) will not be returned and will just be used to start discussing session topics. Instructor announces question’s fate after the 3-5 minute period to answer it. Only students who arrive on time can return the question to the professor if this applies. Latecomers can pick up a question but cannot return it to the professor if the question falls into the returning category.
This simple method for formative assessment stimulates students to arrive on time and eventually prepared. As mentioned, only students arriving on time can return the question if this day the question contributes to the next exam grade. At the same time, it spontaneously opens a discussion about specific class topics. Even if the question is returned to the instructor, this practice creates a short debate at the beginning of the class. This opens a productive learning atmosphere as instructor and students start the session discussing important class topics. In doing so, the instructor takes advantage of this opportunity to appraise content understanding and reinforce key class topics. Along the term, students become acquainted with the experience. In summation, this practice positively contributes to their engagement at the beginning of the session.
This initial question is usually a short problem. Chemistry course requires practicing problem solving extensively. Other question formats specifically tailored to concrete disciplines such as true and false, short answer, etc. can be used as well. Overall, this tool unlocks an opportunity to manage effectively the first part of the class session while allowing instructor to quickly assess students’ learning progress.
NATURAL SCIENCES DEPT.
Nelson Nuñez-Rodríguez is an Associate Professor of Chemistry in the Natural Sciences Department. He serves as unit coordinator for the Physical Sciences Unit and coordinates the NIH IRACDA program in this department. He also serves as OAA assessment team liaison for Natural Sciences, Behavioral and Social Sciences departments and for the Black Studies Unit in Humanities Department. Nuñez-Rodríguez served as college-wide director for Center for Teaching and Learning for four years.