Low-Stakes Formative Assessment

AOI | Learning Innovations
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Weekly Tip: Low-Stakes Formative Assessment

In September 2018, we shared a tip that defined low-stakes formative assessments and suggested a few strategies. In the following tip, we’ll be taking a closer look at a few of the strategies mentioned, considering how these can help your students better retain information and prepare for future high-stakes assessment.


Quick-response activities—(iClicker, Microsoft Forms, Top Hat, etc.) Quick-response activities are a great way to gauge student understanding of a given topic, but don’t stop there! Quick-response activities are also a great starting point for fostering discussions and creating opportunities for peer-instruction. Peer instruction allows students to learn from and teach each other by talking through why they chose the answer they did. In conjunction with quick-response activities, peer instruction can serve as a way for instructors to get feedback and determine if students are ready to move forward.

1-minute reflections—As the name suggests, 1-minute reflections are brief, but serve as a way for students to evaluate their approach to a task or exam. Providing opportunities for students to reflect allows students to identify areas where they can improve moving forward. To guide students, prompts should be provided. Students can respond to the prompts provided using pen and paper, or digitally by using a survey tool like Microsoft Forms. 1-minute reflections can be done at the beginning or end of a class session, after an activity completed in class or as homework, or after an exam. Incorporating 1-minute reflections takes little to no prep and are easy to incorporate frequently. Check out this 1-minute reflection example (pdf) to get you started.

Student-generated test questions—In this activity, students are asked to create likely test questions based on the information they have received during a class period, unit, subject, etc. This gives students the opportunity to practice recalling information and gives you insight into what they view as important information. There are several ways you can collect student-generated test questions including pen and paper, or digitally, using the assignment or survey feature in Canvas. This can also give you an opportunity to make students feel more involved in the learning process by using some of their questions on future quizzes or other assessments. This Edutopia article discusses other benefits of student-generated test question activities and how they can promote deeper thinking.

Low-Stakes formative assessments like the ones above are a great way to allow students to reflect, apply their knowledge, and prepare for future assignments and higher-stakes exams.

Additional Resources 

One-Minute Paper (pdf)
Weekly Tip: Pre-Class Activities and In-Class Peer Instruction Strategies

This series of videos and teaching tips is presented by Academic Outreach and Innovation (AOI). We invite you to join the conversation. Share your tips and ask questions through this blog. If you would like these posts to be sent directly to your email each week, subscribe to the listserv by emailing aoi.li@wsu.edu.

For more information or to schedule time with an instructional designer or emerging technologist, contact aoi.li@wsu.edu or request training on demand. You can also visit the Spark Faculty Innovation Studio in room 102 any time from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, during the academic year.