Have you ever walked into your classroom and realized that your students had no idea what to expect? Maybe they were unsure of the requirements for a class essay or project, or didn’t really know where they were in terms of the necessary components of an activity. This can be a terrible feeling, and it’s one that our students experience all too often.
As a teacher, I have experienced something similar: Where are my students? What do they already know? How can I encourage them to monitor their own progress and take control of their learning?
During the 2017–18 school year, my district implemented a teacher-leader program in which a small group of teachers from each building studied the factors that renowned education researcher John Hattie has found have the greatest impact on student learning. I chose to specialize in the assessment-capable strategy because I felt that it would help me and my students more effectively monitor their learning.
The assessment-capable strategy allows students to answer these questions about content understanding: Where am I? Where am I going? How do I get there?
As a high school social studies teacher, I was originally stumped on how I could use this strategy in my classroom. But I use Google Forms almost daily to gather information from my students, and I believed that we could use this tool to help students answer those three questions.
Using Google Forms for Formative Assessment
Many teachers are already using Google Forms because they’re easy to create and use. We can use them to gather important information from students such as contact details, food allergies, and health issues, as well as fun tidbits and other details students wish to share. We can also use Forms as a formative assessment tool.
I have my students complete a Google Form as a unit pre-assessment. I ask two to four questions for each learning target we will focus on in the unit. On each question I offer four response options—three are content-based and one is “I don’t know, yet.”
I encourage my students to choose “I don’t know, yet” instead of guessing on questions they don’t know the answer to, for two reasons: First, I want to get accurate data on their current understanding. If they guess, what does that give me? Inaccurate data. Second, I want them to get used to the fact that it’s perfectly fine to be unfamiliar with a topic. It’s OK to be a beginner.
At the beginning of the year, my students struggle with this, saying things like, “Well, if I pick that answer I’ll look bad, but if I guess at least I have a chance at picking the right answer.” This mentality takes the focus off of learning the content, which is not what I want, so I make a point of encouraging them to answer honestly.
After we complete the unit, my students complete the same Google Form from the beginning of the unit as their post-assessment. It’s fantastic to see them grow in their understanding of content—and it's great that they can see it too.
Tracking Learning With Google Sheets
After students complete their pre-assessment—and can answer the question “Where am I?” on the learning path—they enter their data on their Learning Chart, which is a Google Sheet. I assign both the Google Form and the Learning Chart through Google Classroom to make it easy for my students and me to find it throughout the unit. The “make a copy for each student” option in Classroom lets me quickly distribute the Learning Chart to my students. Charting their data on the Google Sheet lets students quickly see where they are in relation to the learning targets for the unit.
When we complete the post-assessment, my students open their Learning Chart on Classroom and enter their new data. The second sheet of their Learning Chart includes a bar graph that is set to display both pre- and post-assessment data. It makes my teacher heart so happy to see the pride on their faces when students can actually see the progress they’ve made throughout the unit.
While there are many ways that teachers can use technology to develop assessment-capable learners—students who know both where they are and where they’re going—Google Forms and Sheets provide teachers with a quick and easy way to implement this strategy in their classroom. If you’d like to use this strategy in your classroom, you can use the sample that I created for my students and that is included here as a template.