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Using Assessment to Boost Learning (Part 2)

Higher and Deeper Thinking, Episodic Learning, Brain-Friendly Strategies

Classroom formative assessments that are routinely embedded during learning assist students as they recall and rehearse new knowledge, understanding, and skills. As Henry Roedinger III and Jeff Karpicke explain, there are numerous low-stakes strategies that support their research on the value of continuous review, practice, retrieval, and application of learning.

Deeper questioning and higher level thinking
Choose strategies that elicit and interpret evidence of learning at multiple levels of Blooms Taxonomy and Webb’s DOK. Rather than recalling what the Hungry Caterpillar ate or identifying which foods were unhealthy, ask students to prescribe a healthy diet for the caterpillar. Instead of asking about the meaning of vocabulary words, ask students to support an idea or position using the vocabulary words. In place of asking how political parties are alike and different reflect on how those differences influence their legislative decisions.


Episodic Learning
This works for any content from grouping numbers to analysis of Hamlet. Rather than 30 minutes of sustained learning, intersperse moments of recall using a prop or concept map to briefly summarize a strategy or character trait.
A Stop-to-Jot strategy transfers attention from the reading or viewing. A Learning Tracker is a more structured form of the stop-to-jot in that students respond to a specific prompt at a selected point of learning.
Collectively, learning can be reviewed and understanding checked through a visible posting such as on Padlet. As with eating rich food, smaller portions are more easily digested.

Brain-Friendly Strategies
Take regular breaks during learning, even if it is simply to get up and count steps around the table, name the countries around the world, or a model with kinetic sand.
Quick Checks such as a written summary or “Tell it to Martian” require students to recall and show new learning.
Distributed learning using Lino lets students post digital sticky notes, making it easy to summarize learning and respond to misunderstandings.

When students repeatedly retrieve and apply their learning they become better caretakers of their own learning. This in turn supports engagement and deeper learning. Research from the learning sciences show that these ideas work.

Try It Out: Select two ideas from what you have just read and explain two ways you will use what you learned. Write a summary of 140 words that you can post on Twitter.

See previous blog USING ASSESSMENT TO BOOST LEARNING, Part 1, for more ideas.

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Using Assessment to Boost Learning (Part 1)

Check-ins and Applications

Standardized testing is typically done to generate data on student learning, to rate students, and to evaluate schools and teachers. Yet, it is not solely teaching and testing that strengthens learning. Henry Roedinger III explains that testing alone does not help to embed learning, but the retrieval and application of learning does. In addition, Jeff Karpicke’s research at Purdue shows that frequent recall of learning in an applied context makes learning last for the long-term.


Frequent Check-ins
Retrieval Cues
Cues that assist in recall serve to strengthen memory. A good idea is to stop often during learning to build those connections. This can be accomplished using prompts such as a mnemonic device, a graphic image, a brief musical passage, or a movement that connects to the learning. Check for understanding with checklists and self-assessment as students use these strategies.

Check-ins with Technology
Zaption makes it possible to embed questions directly into a video. Using the Zaption upgrade or your school’s learning management system, student responses can be quickly reviewed for accuracy of retrieval and evidence of understanding.
With ActivelyLearn a teacher can respond directly to a student’s understanding of a reading passage. Socrative and Quia generate quick quizzes that support frequent retrieval.

Applications of Learning
Formative assessment engages students as active learners. It is hard not to learn when you are expected to explain your thinking, respond to a prompt, engage in a corners activity where you support a position, or contribute to a Q and A mix-up where students write and hold onto their question cards but their answers cards are distributed and re-matched. Tracking progress towards goals by solving a problem, citing examples, or developing a portfolio of work is engaging, affirming, and indicative of progress and gaps.

When students are owners of their learning, they continually reflect on their learning, check progress towards success criteria, and plan next steps.

Try It Out: Select two ideas from what you have just read and explain two ways you will use what you learned. What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t read it?

Find more ideas in next blog: Higher and Deeper Thinking, Episodic Learning, and Brain Friendly Strategies

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