Sunday, September 25, 2011

How to Use Formative Assessments In A Different way -0 to 120mph In 4 Seconds....What We Can Learn From Top Thrill Dragster.

On a warm, sunny Sunday morning, I found myself strapped into a seat on the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point.  Sitting next to me, a big smile on his face, was my 11 year old nephew.  He has ridden this ride before. He loves this ride and he knows what to expect.  He assures me that I am not going to die.  The rational side of my mind works very hard at believing this.  I've watched others ride this ride.  I've seen it get stuck at the top and not come down.  Thousands have gone rocketing down this track, shot 420 feet straight up into the sky then plunged 420 feet back down again.  But I hadn't.  It was scary and exciting at the same time. The green light flashed and I was doing it, I was riding the Top Thrill Dragster!  And it was fun! My nephew high-fived me as we came to a stop.  I had a great feeling of accomplishment because I had overcome my fears and had successfully ridden the ride.

What does my experience with the Top Thrill Dragster have to do with adding formative assessments to my classroom?  First, my nephew set some clear learning targets for me.  As an experienced rider, he was able to tell me what to expect at each point of the ride and what I would need to do to get safely to the end and still have fun. Even though I had researched the ride, seen others riding it and knew the rules for how to ride it, it took having someone who had ridden it before to coax me onto the ride.   Peer models are confidant using different types of formative assessments in their classrooms and can support teachers who are stepping out of their comfort zones to begin to use formative assessments in a different way. Second, we need to remember that the effective use of different formative assessment tools can act as the safety equipment on the ride, keeping students on track moving toward our learning targets,especially if our class starts to move too fast. Third, we need to celebrate our successes.  We need to recognize the teachers who are using formative assessment strategies to help their students be successful and continue to support their efforts.

Ideas for Using Formative Assessments In A Different Way

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