Academic journal article Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom

What Do They Understand? Using Technology to Facilitate Formative Assessment

Academic journal article Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom

What Do They Understand? Using Technology to Facilitate Formative Assessment

Article excerpt

Formative assessment is so important to inform teachers' planning. A discussion of the benefits of using technology to facilitate formative assessment explains how four primary school teachers adopted three different apps to make their formative assessment more meaningful and useful.

As teachers, we know the important role that assessment plays in our job. Too often, assessment is seen primarily in terms of summative assessments for the purpose of evaluating student progress or assigning grades. This view limits the potential for assessment to inform teaching and learning--known by many as formative assessment. In fact, a significant amount of evidence has shown the power of formative assessment in raising student achievement (Black & Wiliam, 1998). Some have even claimed that effective implementation of formative assessment can improve student achievement as much as any other instructional intervention (Banks et al., 2005).

The importance of assessment to inform instruction has long been recognised by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the community of mathematics educators. Both the Assessment Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 1995) and Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM, 2000) asserted that assessment should support mathematics learning and inform instruction. As stated more recently in Principles to Actions, "effective mathematics teaching elicits evidence of students' current mathematical understanding and uses it as the basis for making instructional decisions" (NCTM, 2014, p.53). The importance of assessment is also reflected in the AAMT Standards (AAMT, 2006) where excellent teachers are described as using a wide variety of assessment strategies that continually gather evidence of student learning and use that data to inform instruction and provide feedback to students. In the mathematics classroom, formative assessments that gather such critical information are both informal and formal (e.g. pre-assessments, questioning, classroom discussions, exit tickets, mathematics journals, etc.). The bottom line is that formative assessment requires that teachers are eliciting students' mathematical understanding and using that data to inform instruction and support student progress towards learning goals.

So how can we ensure formative assessment is used more frequently? One significant barrier for many teachers is simply envisioning how to fit formative assessment into a day that already feels like a time-crunch (Cizek, 2010). To be able to harness the power of formative assessments in the classroom, it seems vital that teachers find simple ways to integrate it into their daily mathematics teaching. This article shares how four primary teachers embraced the possibilities that technology provided for implementing formative assessment effectively and efficiently. The teachers featured in this article teach second and third grade in a primary public school in the United States, which recently received classroom sets of iPads. This article presents the iPad apps that these teachers used regularly during their mathematics instruction to facilitate formative assessment, the kinds of information they were able to elicit, how they adapted their instruction, and considerations for teachers hoping to implement similar technology.

Using technology to elicit students' mathematical understanding

What these classroom teachers discovered was that technology was an avenue for eliciting individual student mathematical understanding in a way that could not be done efficiently in a room of 18 to 24 primary students. In their classrooms, the availability of tablets opened up opportunities to engage students in formative assessment without disrupting the class. Teachers could now ask students to log in during mathematics centres (1), when they finished an assignment early, during class or small group work, or even before or after school. Once students established a routine for working on tablets, teachers felt free to move around more during instruction, provide more individual feedback, and identify and address misconceptions as they were happening. …

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