The four fundamental pillars of classroom interaction are planning, teaching, assessment, and remediation. Of these, assessment has the maximum impact on the other three. The reason is simple: assessment gives teachers the much-needed data to make decisions on improving a child’s learning. They can use assessment data to decide on altering strategies in their classrooms or ensure specific students receive individualised attention.
However, the frequency and quality of assessment regulate the speed and impact of the decisions they make. An end-of-unit test, a quarterly or half-yearly exam, or a letter grade for an annual examination fails to capture the full scope and benefits of assessment. For the teacher and the student to benefit from assessment, the focus should be on the daily interactions in a classroom. These opportunities provide information about students’ work and understanding. The insight thus obtained helps improve both teaching and learning. The operating word, it must be remembered, is ‘daily’. Otherwise, the end of a unit or term assessment could well be a surprise for the students or the teacher. Assessments must then be seen as an integral part of the daily classroom life and not as an event to partake in at some prescribed time.
One of the most suited methods of formative assessment is the daily quiz. Felix Kwan, a professor, in his paper “Formative Assessment: The One-minute Paper vs.the Daily Quiz”, says, “If designed properly, the daily quiz is indeed a powerful and effective assessment tool.” Daily quizzes may be held in the final five minutes of each class period. They can be held even at the beginning or during a class. The quiz can have short questions (true-or-false-&-explain, multiple-choice, or short-answer). Depending on the complexity of a topic, the quiz may consist of one or two longer problems.
Quizzes have three benefits. First, they are unambiguous and have a sharp focus on the learning outcome of a concept. Second, they help teachers to figure out how well children know a concept on an immediate and regular basis. They can then adjust the pace of the lesson accordingly. Third, quizzes are a fun way to engage students in the classroom, as students’ love the quiz format.
Formative assessments like daily quizzes, however, come with a challenge — the classroom strength. It may not always be possible for the teacher to manually assess the learning of every child in the duration of a class. The current school system does not offer them tools to assess the progress of every child in every single class, outcome by outcome. Unless they are able to assess the progress of every child and address the gap, the classroom transaction will not significantly change, and the benefits of formative assessment will not be passed on to the child. The class transaction model must shift from 1:30 to 1:1. With the availability of many innovative educational technology tools, assessing student learning through daily quizzes is now easy.
If the students have access to desktops or tablets, apps like Socrative in the classroom, or Kahoot, at home, are a smooth way to implement daily quizzes. If the teacher alone has access to a tablet, she can use Plickers. It is a tool for teachers to conduct surveys and implement assessments. Students simply hold up a response card with a QR code, and the teacher uses their smartphone to capture images of their cards. The program is able to read the response cards and give instant results.
Many schools in India may not have devices for either the teacher or the students. Nevertheless, response cards can be designed and implemented. A teacher can ask the students to design four cards each with ‘A’,‘B’,‘C’, and ‘D’ written on them. Each of these cards can be of a different colour (any of orange, yellow, blue, violet, brown and black); green and red colours must be avoided as students are attuned to seeing them as right and wrong.
The teacher may either use questions from the books or ask specifically designed questions. The students can then raise the response card, that they believe is the right answer. For best results, the response options should be designed to incorporate misconceptions so that mistakes are elicited, and students learn from their mistakes. When children raise their cards in response to a question, it becomes effortless for a teacher to spot the students who have made a mistake and need to improve. She may then take appropriate corrective actions. It is important for a teacher to establish the norm that making a mistake is fine, as long as everyone is willing to learn from it.
Implementing daily quizzes with coloured response cards is a convenient and powerful way of formative assessment, especially in low-tech environments like classrooms in India. The more frequent the assessment, the greater the effect. The humble quiz, aligned to learning outcomes and misconceptions, and empowered with a high-tech or low-tech data capturing tool, has within it sufficient power to transform the entire classroom interaction and move education from teaching to learning.
(The author is with IMAX Program, Bengaluru)