As a Swedish and Spanish teacher at Spyken Upper Secondary School in Sweden, Gabriella Franzén uses itslearning to help her practice formative assessment. Formative assessment can be defined as continuous mini assessments of students which help teachers adjust and improve instruction. As opposed to summative assessment, which involves giving students marks or grades, formative assessment emphasizes the frequent exchange of quality feedback.
Gabriella finds that her classes are so large that there’s not enough time to provide her students with all the constructive feedback she has for them during each class. Therefore, she extends her classroom through itslearning and gives valuable feedback online as well.
Gabriella’s Spanish students work in groups to create films about Spanish and Latin American culture, with Spanish scripts. The students practice their pronunciation and record drafts of their scripts using the built-in itslearning audio recording tool. They submit these recordings as assignments in itslearning. Gabriella opens them and reviews her students’ pronunciation. She writes comments within the assignment files; which are full of constructive, personal feedback; and returns them to the students. Students are notified through itslearning when the responses have been sent. They can read them whenever they choose and respond online.
Formative feedback: more influential than grades
Gabriella says that she was inspired by a recent lecture given by Dylan Wiliam (Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the University of London) regarding assessment for learning. For many years her school has been incorporating the strategies that Dylan Wiliam describes. He argues that grades can be motivating for high performing students, but that they can be equally demotivating for low performing students. Research shows that when done well, formative feedback is a larger motivating factor for students than grades. Quality feedback should focus on students’ achievements as well as their need to improve. It should give praise when students succeed and point out what they can do to keep advancing. Gabriella uses her itslearning database of audio recordings to track her students’ linguistic progress and provide them with formative feedback. She lets them know how much their Spanish has developed and what they can do to improve their pronunciation and grammar.
Another way teachers can provide feedback through itslearning is to record their comments using the audio recording tool. These recordings can be embedded into course notice boards, assignments, emails, and even discussion threads. The technique allows teachers to give more nuanced feedback, which many students prefer because it often feels more personal than written notes. When used in combination with face-to-face and written feedback, this technique can add a new dimension to a student’s educational experience. Our itslearning audio feedback recipe describes how to do this.
Feedback from students is as important as feedback to students. Students can send feedback to teachers through itslearning regarding which aspects of their lessons they have or have not understood. This allows teachers to assess and improve their teaching. Individual or collective feedback can be expressed using itslearning email, discussion boards, surveys, polls and the audio recording tool.
After Gabriella has approved her students’ movie scripts, they are ready to make their films. Spyken School provides each student with a laptop as well as access to iPads and digital cameras. Students can choose to film their movies using these devices, the built-in itslearning video recorder or even their own cellphones.
When the films are finished, they are all uploaded to the same location in itslearning. Gabriella reviews the movies and provides feedback to each filmmaking group. Afterwards, the teams watch each other’s films and ask each other questions. In this way, everyone learns more about the topics presented in the films.
One more way to encourage students to comment on each other’s movies is to embed each film into an itslearning discussion thread. (See photo below.) Students who are reluctant to participate in class discussions are often more willing to participate in online discussions. Teachers can use these discussions to provide feedback from which all students can benefit.
Gabriella surveys her students to find out what they think of her courses. “My students are very positive to film projects. They enjoy making films, even in their spare time, so they’re better at it than I am,” she notes. Gabriella says there are many benefits to using itslearning, “It’s a great way to keep everything in one place and share with classmates. I can easily follow my students’ work and get an overview of their progress. I can give online pointers to an entire group at one time, and when someone is missing, the rest of the group can keep working.”
To read more about formative assessment and assessment for learning, please see our whitepaper Managing Assessment for Learning.