Using iPods for formative assessment

Technology is often motivating for students, but does it improve learning? Use a structured process to explore and demonstrate the effectiveness of new tools for formative assessment.

Claire is a secondary school teacher in the UK. Claire is currently teaching programming to teenagers. She uses a short quiz to assess their learning of basic concepts. The results of the quiz help her plan the following lessons. Students often complain that the test is on paper, because they would prefer it to be online. So Claire decides to administer the quiz online, using iPods. She knows that students think they will be more motivated to do the quiz online, but she doesn’t know whether they will actually be more motivated or whether an increased motivation will improve their performance. She needs a way of assessing this. She wants to be able to explore this question for two reasons: a) to decide whether she should use online materials more in the future, and b) to show her supervisor how she is improving her practice.

NEXT-TELL offers a process called TISL (which stands for Teacher Inquiry into Student Learning) that structures the process of evaluating changes in teaching practice. The process involves 4 simple steps, each of which is guided by questions. Through the process Claire easily identifies: a) what it is she is changing in her practice and why, and b) how she will evaluate the impact of this change. Claire decides she is investigating two questions: are the students more engaged with an online quiz compared with a paper one, and does the online quiz lead to higher performance. Claire decides she will gather evidence about students’ engagement during the test, she will ask them for feedback after the test, and she will compare their scores with those from previous years.

Claire produces an online version of the paper quiz using Google Forms. She gives the quiz to students and observes them while they do the quiz. She then asks them a few questions about their experience of doing the quiz online. Later, she looks at their scores and compares them with the scores of quizzes from previous years. She finds that students were very focused during the quiz, they report they enjoyed the experience more, and their average scores are much higher than those from paper based quizzes. She keeps her notes so that she can refer to them the next term when she uses the quiz again. The NEXT-TELL method has given her a template for saving her evaluation of her practice.

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