Maths teachers at College Weert are using formative assessments and tests to provide bespoke guidance to students, both inside and outside the classroom.
“Students prepare maths material at home and we produce videos and PowerPoint presentations that correspond with the relevant subject matter in advance,” explains maths teacher Stefan Kessels. “Thanks to the various ways in which the material is served up, students can decide for themselves how they will learn and they can always refer back to earlier material, which is always useful if they missed it first time through absence.”
Every week, students are subjected to a formative assessments of what they have learned and this is also linked to older material. “Continuously looking back at earlier material is a particularly effective way to ensure that students are better able to remember the material over time,” insists maths teacher Stefanie Peeters. The formative assessments comprises three assignments, or questions, which the students take an average of 20 minutes to answer independently. Afterwards, the answers are written on the board. Students can then decide for themselves whether it’s best to follow discussions about the assessments or whether they’ve learned enough to continue on their own.
After every chapter, students can also do a formative test, which is comparable to a feedback moment before doing a summative test later. The teachers instruct the students to quickly check their answers themselves in accordance with a correction model (without marks). “When checking their answers it’s stressed upon the students that it’s important that they think carefully where they might have gone wrong and what they still need to work on, such as not having the necessary knowledge, for example, simple calculation errors, not reading the question properly, and so on,” says Stefanie.
From a student’s perspective, Floor thinks the formative assessments and tests are a great help to her because the material covers the same knowledge as the material that’s covered in the summative tests. “The formative assessments force me to revisit the material several times, making it easier for me to revise for the test at home and better positioned to know what’s expected of me.”
Based on the formative and summative tests and the student profile (work ethic, pace and level of preparation), during the lessons the teacher divides the group into three colour-coded streams.
Orange: students who are given additional traditional explanations and carry out all assignments according to the study guide schedule.
Blue: students who decide for themselves whether to follow the traditional explanation, but who carry out all the study guide assignments.
Green: students who decide for themselves whether to follow the traditional explanation and who only have to carry out the study guide assignments given in bold typeface.
Appreciation and incentive
“Students performing below the desired level are placed in a group that’s given additional coaching,” explains Stefanie. “Students who need additional coaching appreciate this because the group is relatively small, meaning they can count on receiving more attention. Meanwhile, students who are forced to follow the additional coaching because they didn’t prepare properly at home find it annoying that they have to participate because they’d prefer to spend the time getting on with their homework. It provides an incentive to prepare for their lessons properly next time.”
Preparing for and doing tests beforehand creates more room during the lessons to answer questions, provide extra explanations and give more personal guidance. Above all, thanks to the feedback they receive, students are better placed to reflect on their own work. Student Sem really likes the way the material in maths is presented. “You get the chance to revisit everything, which makes it easier to absorb. And rather than being immediately assessed and marked, you are given an impression of how well you are or aren’t doing, so you still have time to make the necessary improvements.”