Monitoring student progress is critical to the educational process. As teachers, we need to know what instructional strategies students are responding well to, and which ones need to be adjusted. In identifying problem areas and success stories, we are able to develop a curriculum that can better serve the students for which it is designed.

Unfortunately, traditional methods of assessment–namely tests and quizzes–only offer a retrospective look at student learning. That is, they can only tell us what a student learned, not what they are learning. As a result, formative assessment strategies are often used to check student progress or understanding throughout the instructional process.  Using formative assessments throughout the student learning journey can help students recognize how critical thinking is positively impacting their achievements.

Quick Formative Assessments

There are many different types of formative assessments. Here we will be focusing on formative assessments you can use “on the go.” That is, these are quick checks that you can use to get an idea of whether or not students are learning from your educational strategies.

12-word summary

After a lesson, have students write a summary of the main point in 12 words or less. This will help you see if students have grasped the main thrust of the lesson or if they were distracted by ancillary points. You can adapt this for older students by having them tweet you a summary of their assigned reading homework before class. The 140-character limit on Twitter will force students to use an economy of words while expressing complex ideas.

Tickets to Enter/Exit

At the beginning of the day, write a question on the board regarding the previous lesson. Have students write their answers on an index card. Collect the index cards and check the student answers to determine the amount of time you need to spend at the beginning of class reviewing material. Repeat the process at the end of class to determine whether or not students accurately understand the information.

My Favorite No

This is an extension of the previous formative assessment. When you collect the student answers at the beginning of class, sort them into two piles, one for correct answers and one for incorrect answers. Then go through the incorrect or “no” pile and pick out one answer to talk about with the class. Start by saying what you like about the answer and then go over the mistake that the student made and how it can be corrected. This method keeps lower-level students engaged and also gives you an opportunity to address any common mistakes early in the lesson.

When integrating formative assessments strategies into daily instruction, always remember that the point of these exercises is to give students feedback and evaluate the effectiveness of your individual teaching methods. These should never be graded, but used as ways for teachers and students to monitor progress by gathering evidence of student understanding..