Formative Assessment with Technology

What is Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is intrinsically student-centered in that it monitors and adapts to student needs by providing ongoing feedback. Students who are more involved in their learning choices are more engaged and learn better.

 Formative Assessments:

  • help students identify strengths and weaknesses
  • help faculty recognize where students are struggling and allows for instant adaptation

Formative assessments include such things as:

  • asking students to teach each other a concept
  • asking a question via a web poll
  • using a “back channel” such as a twitter feed to have students post questions as they arise
  • turn in a research proposal for early feedback
  • ask students to keep a blog (or learning log) where they reflect on what they are learning


  • Instructor constructs poll for students to create a formative assessment of students’ understanding of a prior lesson
  • Students text responses to site (probably Poll Everywhere) and results are calculated on the spot; Instructor immediately knows where comprehension is strong and weak and from that, targets where to begin.

Teaching Strategies

  • Getting students to reflect on the prior day
  • Asking students to explain what they learned but base it in their choice/confidence
  • Allowing student to share the power
  • Using tools that are familiar to them (cell phones/texting)


Students stay engaged and interested in the material through the use of polling. When the polling is anonymous, students are more likely to admit when they do not know nor understand answers and concepts. The feedback is forced, but is generally not generated after a class session is finished. Instant feedback in class allows the instructor to repeat, clarify and even change course on the spot. Polling can also be used to generate discussion or debates in class, which helps to promote deep learning as learners are pushed to process, communicate and analyze their thoughts and reactions as well as their peers’.

Instructors are able to give instant feedback to students in the moment and use mis-understandings as teaching moments. Teaching can be adapted on the fly as students are able to “direct” the lessons, making the day be more co-directed, allowing the students to help in the teaching.


Grant Wiggins “thoughts on education” blog:

Sally A. Gauci , Arianne M. Dantas , David A. Williams , Robert E. Kemm; Promoting student-centered active learning in lectures with a personal response system,  Advances in Physiology Education 1 March 2009 Vol. 33, no. 1  Pages 60-71

Jerry Chih-Yuan Sun; Influence of polling technologies on student engagement: An analysis of student motivation, academic performance, and brainwave data, Computers & Education, Volume 72, March, 2014 Pages 80-89