Sunday, September 27, 2009

Formative assessment at the college level

Before each class, Neiser sends the 60 students in his two sections of introductory physics two "warm up questions" to help them think through the concepts covered in the reading for that day's class. He also has an open-ended question that lets them raise further points they were curious about. These are low-pressure assignments - if they do a bunch over the term, they get a discount on the final. The grading is on a simple scale, and is based not on the correctness of the response but on how well they engaged the material. The J-I-T element comes in the hard part for the professor: he reads all of these responses before each class, and adjusts his teaching accordingly. The students' responses let him know if there are common misconceptions or pressing questions.
That's from the Gruntled Center, with more on how Professor Neiser's classes at Centre College are changed by this intensive effort to understand and then change student performance here. It's the same classroom concept as the P-12 formative concept, accelerated through technology, and being propagated through collegial discussion. And, once again, it's a concept that works.


  1. Dedicated teachers tell us they love seeing students learn -- seeing the light go on. This process has got to help the professor see that. And the students are more likely to learn more deeply. Looks like a win-win to me.

  2. Susan,

    We are using a similar variant at Eastern utilizing a student response system (Clickers) in educational foundations/large lecture environment.

    We begin class with three questions over the assigned reading material (cumulatively, 5% of grade - low pressure, but not no pressure) then a series of open-ended survey questions are used throughout the lecture as formative assessment. They can be added on the spot. It helps us see immediately if there are misunderstandings, and if there are, they can be addressed immediately. Technology helps us accomplish the kind of real time formative assessment that has been so successful at the elementary level.



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