In this next and final series of blog posts, I address how virtual teachers can and should assess their students. The topics covered offer ideas on how to evaluate students in a virtual classroom, but teachers in the physical classroom will find many of these concepts familiar. Experienced teachers who are cautiously transitions from a physical classroom environment to the virtual classroom will find comfort in the similarities.
Research shows that students benefit from pretests, so all virtual teachers should make this their first assessment, but as soon as students engage with content, the virtual teacher needs to provide many formative assessments. Students need to practice applying the content every 20 to 30 minutes of online work. Formative assessments inform the instructor how well the students grasp the content. Based on the results, a teacher will know whether to offer additional help and how a student might learn the content better. Formative assessments also help students by revealing misconceptions they may have made while studying, and they show the student what they will need to know for the summative assessment.
Formative assessments can take many forms: from the basic multiple choice quiz to a written reflection; from a graphic organizer to a synchronous session. The teacher should choose a form appropriate for the content, and there should also be variety.
As I blogged through Georgia Virtual Learning’s TOOL about the virtual classroom, I developed a unit focused on overcoming obstacles.
The culminating project is a student-produced radio story where the student interviews a stranger about his/her goals and obstacles in life. In order for students to be successful, they must listen to examples, read about interviewing skills, and learn about how people overcome obstacles and meet their goals. Students must also write their radio story before recording it, so they need to know how to write effectively to engage their listeners. This means they must be able to use transitions to keep the story flowing, use phrases and clauses to show the relationship of ideas within a sentence, and use parallel structure to keep ideas organized within their storytelling.
Before encountering the radio stories and text, students take a formative assessment that evaluates their background knowledge. Then as students read or listen to the stories, students complete a graphic organizer or participate in a Twitter chat to help them take notes and engage with the content. Afterward, students share their thoughts while citing textual evidence for the next formative assessment; students post on the discussion forum, write reflections, and participate in synchronous sessions. Their written reflections further help students practice their writing skills, and I can offer tips before they write their radio story.
Formative assessments also test students’ writing abilities, and I have rubrics and a series of quizzes to test whether they can recognize, use, and evaluate transitions, phrases and clauses, and parallel structure. Below is one quiz that tests a student’s basic knowledge of the different types of transitions.
Click the picture to go to the game: