Fun with Formative Assessment Technology

Want to find out what during class what your students know and can do instead of waiting until the next exam? Perhaps find out what they know to build your teaching on their existing knowledge? In-class questions benefit both students and instructors, allowing students to test their knowledge and instructors to adjust activities to meet students where they are. These activities are called formative assessments and take place during class. Using online tools allow the instructor to get immediate results.

At a recent conference (POD Network) I participated in a session “Teaching Strategies and Tools for Energizing and Engaging Students” by Kathryn Smith, who led us in trying out several easy, fun and mostly free online tools for formative assessment. Each of the tools described below require that the instructor create an account (but several can use your existing accounts in Google or Microsoft), but students do not need accounts, and can use their mobile devices to respond.

A free account on Formative allows the instructor to ask multiple choice, multiple selection, short answer or diagram questions and get immediate student responses. Instructors create questions (or use pre-built questions) and then give students a “join code”. Students use the join code on their computers or mobile devices, put in a name, and respond immediately (students do not need an account). Instructors can see student work in real time as they respond. In our demonstration session, we drew our answers to a question, and Kathryn could select and comment on any answer in real time, either online or by showing it and commenting verbally in the classroom. There are a variety of question types, some of which are restricted to “premium” accounts. It’s easy to upload a file with questions, or use questions created by others.

Plickers are a twist on clickers, but students do not need devices – they respond by holding up a piece of paper. Each student is given a paper printed with a simplified QR code. Students respond to a multiple choice question by holding up the Plicker card with their answer on the top, turning the card to select one of 4 answers. The instructor scans the room with their phone, collecting each student answer. Tracking student answers is possible, as each card is unique, but students cannot tell what other students have answered. Plickers is completely free, and students do not use devices. Instructors can print their own cards from the website to distribute to students. Several Duke faculty have happily used Plickers.

Using Kahoot!, instructors can display a multiple choice question that students answer on their own devices via a browser or an app. Kahoot can be used in large lecture halls or in small groups, and is competitive for the speed of answers; students get immediate confirmation that their answer is correct. Points are awarded to students or teams for both speed of answers as well as correctness, adding a game-like experience. Several Duke instructors have used Kahoot and enjoyed the energy in the classroom as students responded.

Flipgrid allows students to create a short video in response to a prompt, and displays them in a grid. Instructors create an account with either Microsoft or Google, and create a prompt for students to respond to. The instructor generates a “Flip code” to share with students so they can answer in video format, maybe before class (via a computer or a phone). The response videos are displayed in a grid, which can be displayed to the class and selected videos can be played. Here are thirty ways to use Flipgrid in class.

Quizizz is similar to Kahoot, in that the instructor provides questions, but in Quizizz, the feedback can be customized (the instructor can create their own memes), and the quiz questions are displayed on the student device. Instructors can choose between creating a live game to play together, or homework mode so that students can progress at their pace.

Assessments like these are useful for both the instructors and the students to find out where the students are in their knowledge of course material. Before an instruction session, asking questions about the upcoming material helps students learn by surfacing prior knowledge, and helps the instructor target instruction. After a lesson, formative assessments inform the instructor and the students about what they’ve learned, and provide an opportunity to work with the new material by asking students to turn to a neighbor and compare answers or explain their own answers. Try one or more of these techniques in your class, and let us know how you like it!

Andrea Novicki

Author: Andrea Novicki

Andrea helps faculty teach effectively and efficiently. She works primarily with scientists, using her biology background, love of science and teaching experience. Her current enthusiasms include active learning, group learning (especially team-based learning) and assessment.