The Power of the Formative Assessment

The power of formative assessment is one of the things I most like about the process of the IBPYP Exhibition.

The IBPYP Exhibition is a student-driven, culminating experience in the PYP. During the Exhibition, the teacher openly drops into a real facilitator role (even though they do this all the time). Throughout the Exhibition, kids drive their inquiry. They embrace the transdisciplinary skills and IB Learner profile, as they should do all of the time. However, the Exhibition makes it explicit, and it’s a great time to soak in students’ understanding.

Formative assessment, or the assessment that drives our teaching, is so critical during Exhibition. It shows us students’ strengths and weaknesses. It allows us to change our course, differentiate between students, giving some the scaffolding they need and others the freedom they need.

How, as a teacher during the Exhibition,  do I gather all of this juicy information about the students?

IMG_4662I watch: Over the last few weeks, I have taken a lot of mental notes and have written a lot of notes about how effectively the students organize themselves. Can they follow a checklist? Do they know what to do next? Do they continuously ask me for help? When they’re putting together their visual display, can they figure out how to make it neat? When it’s workshop time, are they focused when searching for information or are they playing games? Can they rise to the challenge of putting it all together–from research to writing to speaking to their i-movie? If not, where are they struggling?

I listen: What kinds of questions are they asking me or others? How are they talking with their friends in class? One student talks about how she wants to do her best and wonders why someone else is goofing off. When they talk about their passion and their real-life connection, do they know details? Can they support what they say? I listen to them on Voice Thread talking about their passion and explaining its importance. I listen to their words in their blog responses.

I record: I take a lot of pictures. I videotape them whenever I can. The other day I checked in to see how they were feeling. What made them excited and what concerned them about Exhibition. Even watching this, I can tell how well they are reflecting.

IBPYP Exhibition Voices from YIS Academics on Vimeo.

The Exhibition has helped remind me how we don’t need standardized tests to tell us how our students are doing. As good teachers, and I know more of them than I do poor teachers, we understand our students through our interactions with them. It’s formative assessment, anecdotal notes and keen observation. Our Exhibition team of teachers are constantly evaluating how we’ll change things based on our students. We interact. We inquire. We learn.

Formative assessment drives us.

About kdceci

I am a grade 5 teacher in a PYP school in Chicago, Illinois, USA. From the US originally, I worked in Asia the last 13 years. I am passionate about inquiry-driven education, collaboration, and ensuring kids get to continue to be kids that play, create and think as long as they can. Outside of school, l love to write, read, hike, run, meditate and travel.
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3 Responses to The Power of the Formative Assessment

  1. johnbarell says:

    Wonderful post. Thanks very much for highlighting the importance of formative and summative assessments in the Exhibition project. Here in New York City and around the US teachers are being assessed based upon standardized tests, some of which do not even apply to their subjects (i.e. physical education teachers being assessed on state Language Arts tests). All teachers have the opportunity to observe, monitor and record students’ growth in inquiry, problem solving, critical and creative thinking. An Exhibition is an excellent opportunity for students, for example, to keep good records of their initial questions and their processes of inquiry, all of which will inevitably involve problem solving and critical thinking. (Challenging MYP/DP students with similar tasks are equally significant.)
    The more student records we have the better we will be able to share with students, other faculty, administration and family what kinds of progress students have made. We need not rely on standardized tests, here in US, nor on summative tests only. Keeping good student and teacher records all during the school year relating to inquiry, thinking (problem solving), communications, risk taking and the like are some of our best ways of accounting for students’ growth during the year.

    Of course, these records need to be used not only for teacher assessment but also for students’ self-reflections, from which they can derive the kind of metacognitive personal control over their own learning.

    John Barell


  2. Mrs. Musone says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. Found it helpful to watch the video of students explaining their thinking and reflection. Powerful tool.


  3. Ed says:

    Great post Kristen! I’ve just led a workshop on the exhibition and the big question from all the groups was how to assess the exhibition. We talked a lot about ‘assessment for learning’ and ‘assessment as learning’ rather than ‘assessment OF learning’ but the idea of needing to assess a final product for a grade is still ingrained in most educational contexts, be it school, parent or community expectation. To me (and you!) the whole exhibition experience is an assessment in itself. Who do we need to educate?


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