One of the most challenging parts of planning effective lesson instruction is crafting purposeful formative assessments that are in alignment with a lesson’s Learning Goals. Often, teachers are tempted to give students a quiz or test as a means of monitoring their understanding, and just as often, this “assessment” takes on a standardized format like multiple choice or true/false. While there is a time and a place for this type of assessment, teachers should not feel confined to this traditional approach when lesson planning. True assessment for learning may be as varied as the Learning Activities that they accompany. After all, if “assessment for learning is the process of seeking and interpreting evidence for use by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there,” then teachers and students must go beyond “choosing C” and instead delve into assessment as a critical part of active learning (Assessment Reform Group, 2002).
What are Assessment Prompts?
Assessment Prompts, aka formative assessments, provide checks for understanding of the lesson’s Learning Goals at critical points. They are distributed throughout a lesson and should be designed to elicit evidence of understanding at the appropriate level of thinking. So, if a Learning Activity requires students to think at a higher level, then the corresponding assessment should require that students think at that same higher level. This is a critical attribute of effective assessment that is often overlooked and is really the number one reason traditional quizzes and tests are not always the most effective means of monitoring student learning. It is imperative that teachers use quality questions and tasks in order to elicit students’ true understanding of a lesson’s Learning Goals.