CEP 813: Formative Assessment Design 3.0

Through CEP 813 I not only learned what effective assessments and feedback look like in theory and in practice, but I also learned about various tools and supports that can be used to differentiate assessments/feedback and consequently improve learning outcomes. Utilizing feedback and support from my professors and what I learned about Understanding by Design, I was able to merge theory, content, feedback and design to create the final draft of my formative assessment.

In my formative assessment design 3.0, I have elaborated on the connection between assessment and instruction, listed instructions for the teacher and student, provided a rationale for the technology tools I implemented, discussed my feedback approaches as they relate to theory and best practice, and lastly, I supported my assessment design as it relates to how students learn in theory and in context.

Here is the final draft of my formative assessment: Three Acts Math


CEP 813: Best Work

While trying to decide what I would characterize as my “best” work in CEP 813, I really had to reflect on how to measure or evaluate my “best” work. I think most people naturally assume their highest score or highest quality work represents their best work; however, I feel that my best work in CEP 813 is best represented through my growth and accomplishments, not mastery. Through lecture and play in CEP 813, I have come to appreciate the learning process much more than the end result. Consequently, I believe that some of my best work in CEP 813 was developed throughout Module 4: Using Digital Games for Assessment. Specifically, I believe that my best work is the Minecraft assessment I built to use as a tool to measure learning in my 8th grade math class. It may not be the highest quality of work I have produced in CEP 813, but it is the work that I feel represents the most personal growth as my accomplishments relate to all facets of this course.

Our creation task was broken down into two separate activities, which resulted in two separate screencasts. For the first part of the task, I explored the Minecraft tutorial world and then created a screencast of my explorations in which I played around, interacted with the environment, and I learned “the basics” necessary to navigate around the virtual world, or so I thought. In the screencast, I communicated challenges and difficulties as I encountered them and as they related to me personally. I also discussed the potential for using Minecraft as an assessment tool in my math classroom. This was an assessment FOR learning and we were assessed on the specifics of our reflection and the technical/production elements of our screencast. For the second part of the task, I was had to create an assessment in Minecraft and reflect on how my assessment design in relation to using Minecraft as a form of electronic assessment might benefit my students. In my second screencast, I identified the math concepts I planned to use in accordance with Minecraft as a way to assess student learning, and then I proceeded to navigate around my creation in the virtual world, explaining design features as they related to the assessment task. I also elaborated on how I would use my creation to measure learning. This was an assessment AS/FOR learning. The screencast was again assessed for technical elements and the rationale behind our design as it related to theory and practice.

In lieu of feedback, we were given the criteria that we would be evaluated on prior to beginning the creation task. This was essential for many reasons: [1] it made the purpose for the task transparent, [2] it revealed the expectations of the assessment, [3] it served as a framework that I could use to inform my design decisions, and [4] it provided an outline that allowed for direct feedback in relation to the specific assessment/evaluation criteria. In addition to fully understanding the purpose for the task and the evaluation criteria, the evaluation notebook was extremely valuable as it allowed for timely and detailed feedback that I could reference at any point and the comment feature made it possible to highlight and discuss specifics with my professor as needed. The organization of the feedback allowed me to easily make connections between my creation and the professor’s feedback so I could make improvements accordingly. The feedback did much more than convey a score. The feedback was thorough and provided specific examples and supports for areas that needed improvement or that needed to be developed further. Through the personalized feedback I received I learned more about how to use Minecraft effectively and also improved my final assessment creation.

Reflecting on my overall experience: at first, Minecraft appeared to be fairly easy to use and set up. We were given instructions that were easy to follow and video tutorials that explained how to navigate in Minecraft in addition to videos that elaborated on the affordances of using games in education. As a gamer, the “play” stage was exciting for me. However, once I began to create my own space in Minecraft, the excitement faded and the frustration set in. I realized that I didn’t really understand what I was doing while I played, and consequently, I didn’t focus on developing the skills that were necessary during the creation stages. I couldn’t figure out how to lay bricks down, and even if I did eventually figure it out, I wasn’t sure of the design in which I would lay them. Figuring out how to effectively use the virtual world of Minecraft in my math classroom was a challenge in itself. I had initially thought it would be easy to connect the three dimensional building blocks in Minecraft with a lesson on three dimensional geometry or isometric drawings, but after playing around on Minecraft and trying out a few different designs, I would reach the conclusion that the design I created for assessment would not result in authentic learning and could be more effectively completed without Minecraft. It wasn’t until I spent time reflecting on my commitment towards relentlessly creating a worthwhile task for my 8th grade math students using Minecraft that I realized the value of the virtual world and the creation task was actually in the learning process itself. That is, as I created in Minecraft, I was reminded of the importance of experimentation, play, and immediate feedback while developing new understanding. By default games provide automatic feedback, whether that is good or bad. They allow for collaborative workspaces and tangible learning opportunities, which in turn afford unique assessment opportunities that can inform instruction in ways that a traditional assessment approach could not. And, although I don’t necessarily plan to use Minecraft in my classroom, playing and designing in the virtual world, at minimum, gave me a greater appreciation for the learning process and forced me to reevaluate my teaching and assessing practices.

The assignments in CEP 813, especially the Minecraft creation task, forced me to learn outside of my comfort zone from perspectives I wouldn’t typically choose using tools that made me uncomfortable, like screencasts. This course has helped me learn to value different assessment approaches and the unique learning opportunities afforded through digital platforms. Through these experiences, I learned how to design authentic assessments through backwards design according to specific learning goals and how assessments situated in instruction can be used to inform and improve teaching and learning.

CEP 820: Reflecting Thoughts on Building an Online Course Module

My goal was to create a fully online learning environment that afforded the same unique learning experiences and opportunities as my traditional math classroom, which proved to be a lot more difficult than I imaged.

The design decisions within this course changed several times. When I first began developing my online course, I had the idea that I would just upload content and make it available for my students to access as they needed. Sort of like I do now for my face-to-face classroom. I hadn’t really considered the organization and I definitely didn’t consider the factors that go into policy and practice. As a traditional classroom teacher, the specifics of policy and practice are developed and modeled much differently; they occur much more naturally. However, after reading through various lectures and participating in is several “play” and “design” activities, I realized that developing an effective online course model would require a lot more than I had initially thought. It would require me to be intentional not only in my design choices but also in my instructional choices. Specifically, in order to create an online learning environment that is conducive to learning, my instructional and design choices would have to be much more explicit. I would actually have to think about the learning progression and how my online classroom would run, opposed to the natural progression that occurs in the classroom.

Similarly, the style of teaching has to change with an online course. By reflecting on my own online learning experiences and through the assignments in CEP 820 (assigned lectures, resources, and tasks) I began to realize just how naïve my initial thoughts were about online course development. Additionally, I was sort of disappointed in myself for forgetting about my own powerful online learning experiences and how they helped me develop as a learner and teacher…I should have known that it would require more than uploading content to create an effective online module. Let me elaborate. I would say I am not a traditional mathematics teacher. I use a much more progressive, creative approach. You see, I have a particular passion for online learning, especially when it comes to math. As far back as I can remember, math has always been a struggle; it never came easy for me. In fact, I was actually pretty bad at it! I wanted nothing to do with it after high school. However, as a freshman in college I took an online math course and REALLY learned math for the first time. It was the most rewarding experience; it is the reason I became a teacher. I loved being able to rewind the video- something you can’t do to a teacher- and learn at my own pace. After that I took several other math courses using video instruction–all the way up to Calculus II. I also took four other courses using online instruction–all of which I excelled in. With that established, you should also know that online learning is really the driving force as to why I became a teacher; it changed the way I felt about learning and helped me realize I was capable of understanding math. Consequently, technology integration has shaped my classroom environment and my teaching methods.

Through this reflective process, I was able to refocus and refine my online learning design to better align with my instructional goals. That is, I wanted my online course to encompass similar design features, tools, and supports that afforded me with such positive, powerful learning experiences. Additionally, I wanted to provide my learners with the opportunity to engage in the type of learning that fits them best, using tools and resources that support their unique talents and abilities. Because I know first hand the effectiveness of carefully designed and operated online courses, I felt a lot of pressure to ensure my online course would encompass the design features and tools necessary to make learning possible for ALL learners, including learners who struggle with math, much like I used to. Thus, I concluded that organization was key to producing a successful online course. As an online learner in the MAET program, I have particularly enjoyed the overall design and setup of my graduate school classes. Consequently, I modeled a similar structure in my online course. This model allowed me to scaffold instruction and learning by delivering lesson content in chunks and it provided consistency in content delivery.

After I had mastered content delivery and organization, I was able to tackle differentiated instruction, unique assessment opportunities, collaborative workspaces, and timely feedback amongst other things. Rather than dispensing knowledge and information as I had initially thought I would in my online course, I was able to optimize learning through scaffolded instruction, tools and supports and by creating differentiated, unique opportunities for learners to interact with the course content and each other using interactive multimedia and discussion forums stimulating conversation while providing direct, immediate feedback. Through the differentiated tasks, “quick checks,” and feedback, I was able to inform teaching and learning. Also, after reviewing the Universal Design for Learning guidelines, I refined and improved my content delivery and organization to ensure I was providing all learners with the opportunity to engage in the type of learning that fit them best, using tools and resources that best supported their unique talents and abilities, which I was able to identify through the task design and feedback. Specifically, I focused on providing multiple representations of content and differentiated delivery approaches in addition to unique assessment opportunities, affording all students with the opportunity to demonstrate learning. This is shown in module six in my online course where the learners are provided with additional instructional videos, multiple representations of lesson material, interactive applets, practice problems and activities of varied levels, and objective (skill and performance) based assessments.

Taken together, both organization and differentiation of content led me to my ultimate CMS choice, which is Haiku Learning; however, as I will explain below, it wasn’t an easy process. The goal for my fully online math course was to develop an individualized and differentiated approach for students learning online, and I was hoping to discover a CMS platform that would encompass my instruction, design and feedback ideals through features built right into the framework. As I will elaborate on below, the biggest issue I ran into during my CMS selection was that I would focus on one aspect of something I wanted my online course to encompass, and I would focus on that only, neglecting the other must haves I identified. So, for example, if I liked the organization and grade book feature, I would ignore the design capabilities…typically finding out too late that the platform didn’t accommodate the type of content delivery I needed it to.

When it came time to choosing our Course Management System (CMS), there were several aspects that I focused on, such as but not limited to: organization of information/course design, usability, built in grade book, collaborative work spaces, built in assessment tools, assignment collection features, and the ability to embed outside content/multimedia. So, during a CMS comparison task, I focused on checking whether or not different management systems afforded the design, features and tools I was looking for. After the CMS comparison activity I selected CourseSites because it aligned the most with the type of platform I was looking to use. However, it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t spend enough time “playing” during the CMS comparison activity, rather I spent most of the time reading about features and clicking to see how they would appear on a course page. So, despite the fact that CourseSites checked out on paper, it didn’t check out during the construction stage, which I elaborate on here. Because I planned to embed multimedia and interactive applets to make certain online learning experiences more tangible, I made the quick decision to switch over to Weebly for Education. This was a safe choice because I have used Weebly throughout my teaching profession. However, after spending quite a bit of time designing my online course on Weebly and uploading content, I realized that what I was gaining in freedom of design, I was giving up in organizational structure. Trying to set up links and hide content pages proved to be too much of a hassle; disorganization and confusion was inevitable. So while Weebly meets my more traditional needs as a face-to-face instructor, I realized that it was definitely not working as a platform for my online math course. With no idea what to do next, I headed back to the drawing block (AKA: the CEP 820 showcase of student work). However, through my platform-choice-failures, I was able to develop a clearer understanding of the CMS features I could not work without. That is, I had to figure out which CMS platform could offer me structure and organization similar to that of CourseSites in addition to the design freedoms, such as the ability to embed multimedia, afforded by Weebly for Education. Having established a more explicit design agenda, it didn’t take me long to realize that Haiku Learning was the obvious CMS choice for me, which surprisingly, wasn’t one I reviewed earlier in the course.

Looking back, if I were to offer up any advice to future online course developers, it would be to spend time actually “playing” & building during the CMS comparison activity, rather than researching and window shopping. That is, any car salesman could show you a beautiful car and hand you a printout of the car’s history and features, but chances are you wouldn’t buy it without test-driving it at least once, right? What I mean is, to really understand if the CMS’s tools and features will align with your course vision, you need to test them out. Reading about them in FAQ section isn’t enough, even if they show you pictures J Trust me when I say this: you will save yourself time and trouble in the long run if you spend adequate time properly playing and experimenting with the different course management systems upfront.

Having completed CEP 820, I have a much better understanding of how to effectively design and inform online learning. Through this course, I was able to reconnect with personal learning experiences that I had forgotten about to create an effective online course module that I can build and expand on in the future.

CMS Assessment 3.0

The ultimate goal of the CMS assessment design project in CEP 813 is to create an assessment in a content management system that supports and enhances students’ learning.  I decided to use Haiku Learning for my assessment design because it is an effective, efficient, useful, and useable platform, making it an obvious choice for administering diverse assessments to secondary mathematics students. Specifically, Haiku Learning is easy to navigate and use and it offers various tools and supports that can be used for formatively or summatively assessing students’ proficiency regarding specific learning goals. These features include discussion forums, collaborative workspaces, polls, rubrics, surveys, learning portfolios, Dropbox for submissions, and various quizzing/testing options. Haiku Learning also has grade book built into the site that allows instructors to link assessments and rubrics to grade book submissions, making it not only a great platform to teach learn and assess but also to communicate progress and proficiency accurately and in a timely manner to both parents and students.

The Pythagorean theorem is one of the main topics covered in an 8th grade mathematics geometry unit, and it is also a standard students will be expected to further develop in both high school geometry and trigonometry. Furthermore, the Pythagorean Theorem is commonly present on standardized assessments such as the M-Step and ACT, and in the ever changing world of standardized assessments, the Pythagorean Theorem and its applications have withstood the test of time, making it a key standard for secondary math learners. So, for this task, I designed and implemented three different types of assessments on Haiku Learning, each eliciting different forms of feedback, as a way to measure whether my 8th grade math students have reached the desired learning outcomes at the end of the first lesson in the Pythagorean theorem unit. The lesson and assessments I created are aligned with Common Core State Standards for 8th Grade Geometry and the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Specifically, using a content management system, my goal was to design and implement assessments that reveal what and how students are learning in time for modifications to be made to instruction; that allow me to assess broader ranges of skills and abilities in addition to content recall; and that redefine students’ role in the assessment process, making the assessment itself a more engaging learning experience. To do so, I included both traditional assessment measures and nontraditional assessment measures as a way to balance and assess a broader range of skills and abilities. The three assessments, when taken together, allow me to inform teaching and learning in different capacities and from different perspectives. The first assessment, traditional in design, measures math computation skills providing direct and immediate feedback. In addition to the first assessment, I designed two non-traditional performance tasks. The first performance tasks allows learners to demonstrate what they know in a collaborative work space by transferring their mathematical knowledge to real world scenarios & the second performance task allows learners to self-evaluate as they make connections between mathematical and visual representations of the content and then reflect on the process, making revisions and improvements along the way.

These three different assessment tasks are designed to give all learners the opportunity to show they have mastered the skills in the first lesson. By differentiating the instruction and assessments, I believe I will be able to more accurately gauge what students truly know in addition to possible misconceptions. Namely, the results from a multiple-choice test provide much different information on learners’ understanding than the evidence revealed through reflective posts or performance tasks. Diverse assessment opportunities provide diverse insights on student learning; and, because the assessment tools and strategies are formative, the information gathered from them should immediately inform and modify instruction and learning. Through this process, students will receive feedback regularly from their peers and me. For example, information gathered from the multiple choice assessment will reveal trends in data, which can be used to help the instructor evaluate the effectiveness of their own instruction while helping them make informed decisions about future lessons. By implementing a quiz assessing isolated skills, such as computation, students are able to use the immediate feedback and quiz score to identify specific areas of weakness and respond accordingly. They should then accommodate their study habits based on their performance scores so they can make improvements by the time they reach the unit summative assessment. Moreover, while the multiple choice assessment allows me to check my students’ computation and retention skills, the metacognitive problem writing performance task and the reflective proof re-creation assessments allow me to assess transfer, or each learners ability to apply their learning to new scenarios, in addition to each learners ability to consolidate and connect new learning with old. They are designed to extend beyond computation and stimulate collaboration and reflection. The performance tasks allow me to assess learners understanding on an individual level and within a community. Through differentiated assessments learners are receiving feedback from multiple sources and are making adjustments in their learning as they progress, which ultimately leads to personal growth. In fact, learners will not only grow by completing the assessment tasks, they will also grow by reading and providing feedback to their classmates (peer-assessment) and reflecting on the process (self-assessment). Through this process, by providing multiple different methods of assessment in each lesson, I hope that learners are appropriately challenged and stimulated and if they aren’t that the data collected from the various assessments informs my instruction and allows me to make changes.

The assessment tools, approaches, and strategies outlined in my screencast and this blog post provide a more cohesive, accurate representation of learners’ proficiency because I have taken into account multiple measures of achievement (three differentiated assessments measuring computation, performance, and consolidation) and have relied on multiple sources of evidence (differentiated feedback in relation to the assessment type). Through the described formative assessments, as I become aware of my students’ needs, abilities, strengths and weaknesses, I will be better positioned to modify my instructional strategies and content focus to help maximize student learning and improve achievement.

Check out the screencast describing these assessments here: CMS SCREENCAST LINK

For a more detailed account of each of the three assessments I designed on my CMS (including an explanation of the assessment tools I used on Haiku and the feedback methods & approaches) continue reading below.

  1. For the first assessment, I used the built in assessment creation tool in Haiku Learning to build a multiple-choice assessment focusing on mastery of isolated computation and application skills. This assessment tool can be used to identify possible misunderstandings and misconceptions to both the teacher and learner as the data collected provides a snapshot of where each learner is in terms of the goals and standards in relation to the overall learning continuum. That is, this particular assessment tool on Haiku learning reports feedback immediately to all parties (students, teacher, & parents via grade book), which allows the instructor to identify strengths and weaknesses individually and holistically and then use those findings to modify instruction and devise appropriate strategies to close/minimize the achievement gap. In addition to the automatic feedback, the built in assessment tool is equipped with an equation editor, making it both a useful and useable tool for math students. Also, in terms of the automatic feedback, all assessments created on Haiku Learning, regardless of their design, can be linked to the grade book tool. While the automatic feedback informs teaching and learning in real-time, the grade book tool, organized by assessment, skill or standard, creates a log of student achievement revealing not only proficiency levels but also progress by charting growth over multiple assessments.
  2. For the second assessment, students will go on to become problem writers posting three real-world questions involving the Pythagorean Theorem, their solutions and work for each of the problems, and a thorough explanation- using appropriate vocabulary- as to why their contexts and solutions make sense realistically and mathematically to a class discussion forum. Then, learners will go on to review and respond to at least three of their classmates’ posts. This assessment approach extends beyond assessing specific skills, such as computation, and measures whether learners can synthesize their knowledge and transfer it to real-world situations. In addition to measuring the learners’ ability to synthesize and transfer knowledge, this formative assessment fosters peer-to-peer collaboration, giving students a key role in the evaluation process. During peer-assessment students become the evaluator and offer feedback and support to help improve their classmate’s work/learning. Not only do collaborative assessments provide real-time feedback from various perspectives as a way to inform and improve learning, they also allow for interactions that blur the teacher-learner roles, which in turn motivates learners to take control of their learning. Moreover, having linked a rubric to this problem writing assessment, utilizing yet another impressive tool on Haiku Learning, learners will be fully aware of their expectations in relation to the learning goals and will consequently be able to provide meaningful, informative feedback to their peers based on those expectations. Students will then self-assess based on the feedback they have received, making adjustments in their work and improving learning. Then, the instructor will use the linked rubric to assess the entire performance task: the development of the problems, the computation, the feedback, the revisions, etc. As a tool to measure student learning, the rubric will allow the instructor to measure multiple dimensions of learning rather than just content knowledge and will provide a more detailed account of the students’ abilities rather than just a score.
  3. The third and last assessment requires that learners recreate a visual representation of the Pythagorean Theorem proof. In doing so, they will be required to reflect on their learning and creation as it develops, making connections to prior knowledge, such as the real number system, and interpreting associated implications. This formative assessment task stimulates self-reflection providing valuable feedback to both the learner and teacher, which can then be used to inform the teaching and learning processes. That is, the reflective account documents the learning process and makes learners’ thinking visible, revealing misconceptions, revisions, & improvements. Additionally, due to the flexibility in design, the instructor can provide one-on-one feedback through commentary or by posing effective questions along the way. Based on my feedback and questions, learners are able to modify and edit their posts and assignments. The dialogue created through feedback informs teaching and learning and allows the instructor to modify and adapt instruction to best meet the needs and thought processes of each learner.

CEP 813: Self-Assessment Blog Post – Theory to Practice

Based on my work and learning experiences in CEP 813, I plan to use digital portfolios with my 8th grade math students so that they can track their progress and reflect on their growth. The main goal for implementing digital portfolios into my math curriculum is that they allow learners to be involved in mathematical abstraction and help them see that math is an ongoing process and finding the answer is not the most important part. While it wouldn’t be feasible to utilize a digital portfolio for every assignment and topic in math class, it would be beneficial to use it during problem solving tasks that require reasoning and periods of reflection.

Carefully designed problem finding and problem solving tasks in mathematics stimulate critical thinking and foster problem-solving skills. In an educational system where standardized tests focus on memorization of trivial facts, it is essential that teachers find instructional tools –such as digital portfolios– that promote mastery (Black & Wiliam, 1998, p.141). An essential element of mastery learning is being able to transfer knowledge to new situations and articulate understanding through metacognition (Shepard, 2005, p.69). Digital portfolios are incredibly useful for self-reflection because they document students’ work so that it can be easily viewed and edited at a later time, allowing learners to make connections within their learning.

Digital portfolios also provide many opportunities for formative assessment to occur within instruction. Specifically, in math class, digital portfolios can be used as a strategy and tool to encourage learners to put on paper what they are thinking about as they approach a math problem. Many students work an idea out in their head, but it never makes it to their paper. The downfall is that those thoughts, limited to the confines of their skull, never get the chance to be re-worked or discussed, instead they are forgotten. The documentation of their process allows the learner to learn from their mistakes, chart their growth, and perhaps utilize findings later on in the process that they attempted to use prematurely. Creativity does not hide mistakes, it transforms them and the work organized in a digital portfolio serves as a constant reminder not to be afraid of failure but to embrace mistakes and new learning. By encouraging them not to erase their typed work, they can document their progress and growth in addition to receiving feedback from their peers. Thus, it makes sense for students to document their thoughts and reflect on the problem solving process in their digital portfolios for my class. However, embedding formative assessments within problem solving tasks utilizing the digital portfolio requires that the assessments align with and support the set learning objectives and that the learner receives meaningful feedback based on their performance (Shepard, 2000, p.11). Thus, educators must carefully align digital portfolio assessments and assignments with the curriculum and provide detailed feedback regularly on student work.

Including digital portfolios in the math curriculum would also allow me to easily generate and organize feedback for students regarding their work. By reviewing their reflective work, I will be able to observe what my learners know and where they are headed, providing feedback on a personalized level. By having learners reflect in their digital portfolios as they work through tasks, they will naturally organize their thoughts and make their thinking more permanent. As I have learned, this reflection process is also a reflection process for me as an educator. Their work and reflections allow me to better gauge where each learner may need more help as well as examine the progress they have made. As a result, I can inform and adapt my instruction to better meet the needs of my learners.

Digital portfolios are incredibly useful in supporting enduring understanding of material. This is largely due to the fact that learners have the ability to respond to challenges at their own level of development and on their own terms. However, as a facilitator it is my job to offer support, direct learning, and set the parameters. I can monitor learning by reviewing digital portfolios and by watching how my students communicate and respond to each other’s work. Clearly, students benefit from learning how their classmates are thinking, so by encouraging collaboration and peer-to-peer feedback, the learners will naturally begin to build off each other for support. Through this process, I will be able to adjust the learning tasks to reflect a more appropriate level of challenge as needed.

To conclude, it is most important that formative assessments afforded by digital portfolios are always designed to encourage a learning culture within the classroom (Shepard, 2005, p.70). That is, to promote a learning culture, the emphasis must be on mastery and conceptual understanding achieved through metacognitive reflection and collaborative learning experiences and less on handing out grades. Because digital portfolios easily allow for assessments to occur within learning, and stimulate both reflection and collaboration efficiently, I plan to integrate them as a learning tool in my 8th grade mathematics classroom.


Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. The phi delta kappan80(2), 139-144.

Shepard, L.A. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational researcher29(7), 4-14.

Shepard, L.A. (2005). Linking formative assessment to scaffolding. Educational leadership63(33), 66-70

CEP 813: Formative Assessment Design 2.0

Assessment is not a spreadsheet or score, it is a conversation.

This week in CEP 813 we were asked to revise and further the development of a formative assessment we first started back in June. For my formative assessment, I created a Three Acts Math Task designed for 8th grade math students who are learning to apply the volume formula for cylinders to solve real-world and mathematical problems. The lesson is designed for students who have already worked with the surface area and volume of 3-Dimensional solids, so they are familiar with how to approach and solve related computational math problems; however, this lesson goes beyond math computation and requires the students to think critically and wrestle with an indirect problem. That is, this lesson requires learners to formulate and solve mathematical reasoning problems (i.e. problems that require application of math processes in the world around us). Thus, while this formative assessment requires learners to be profiecent in certain skills & standards, it’s focus is on measuring learners’ mathematical modeling skills as part of the problem solving process. Although, the summative assessment at the end of the unit will take a step back and measure those computational skills embeded in this task, that is not the purpose of this design.

The job of the dramatist is to make the audience wonder what happens next. Not to explain to them what just happened, or to suggest to them what happens next.

— David Mamet

Storytelling requires empathy, an understanding of an audience’s expectations, their current knowledge, and their prior experience. As you saw in Version 1.0, this formative assessment task was carefully designed to ensure learners are able to identify the problem, accurately communicate their thinking, apply reasoning skills, make connections to prior knowledge, and understand complexities in various forms. By using multimedia to present the lesson, the learners are able to consider much more complex concepts on their own terms. They are able to address real world problems and present real world solutions. They are able to see how their math computation skills can be applied to real world processes realistically, such as how surface area and volume effect producer and consumer choices. Most importantly, digital media allows for learners to be involved in the process of mathematical abstraction, tackling the problem in its most concrete form first and building towards the abstract form. As a result of the design, students will show that they are able to transfer their knowledge regarding volume of cylinders to real world scenarios as they work through the task. “Transferability is understanding revealed: The performers must figure out which knowledge and skill is needed on their own, without simplifying teacher prompts or cues, to solve the real problems of performance” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 156). As the problem unfolds and is developed, the learners will identify what information is necessary to solve the problem on their own and will use their networked device to find information as needed.  The most rewarding thing that an assessment task like this have to offer is seeing the creativity learners bring to mathematics. Processing information, making connections, reflecting, and learning through constructivism are qualities of creative problem-solvers and innovative learners and define the educational ideology of the 21st century.

Building on the framework and design I established in Version 1.0, my second draft will provide a more detailed outline and plan for integrating Three Acts Math as a formative assessment in an 8th grade math class, check out the second draft: Formative Assessment Design 2.0 of my Formative Assessment Design.


Wiggins, G.P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA:  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

CEP 813: Self Assessment Blog Post – Sandbox for Professional Growth

Since I began the Master ‘s in Educational Technology (MAET) program at Michigan State University about two years ago, I have been using my WordPress blog as a way to submit work, reflect on my learning, and collaborate with colleagues. In CEP 813: Electronic Assessment for Teaching & Learning, I have had the opportunity to explore, examine, and learn how digital portfolios can be used as an assessment tool in educational settings. In fact, many of the benefits we learned about for using digital portfolios in classrooms mirror the benefits that WordPress offers to professionals utilizing it as a digital medium in the educational community. In this post, I will reflect on how the features of electronic portfolios, like this WordPress blog, afford opportunities for learning and professional growth.

Digital portfolios are easily used for self-assessment. Throughout the past few years, I have utilized this blog as a digital platform to organize, document, share, represent and reflect on my professional work. The digital format allows me to easily access my creations and provides a thorough documentation of my progress and performance throughout time. Being able to see where I started and where my learning experiences have taken me is rewarding and encouraging.

Unlike the paper portfolio, the digital medium makes it incredibly easy to compile, organize, tag, link, and revise work. I can easily locate work by searching tags, categories, courses, or even a specific time frame, making a digital portfolio an ideal option for multi-part work. In addition to serving as a platform for document and reflecting on personal progress and growth, digital portfolios make it easy for colleagues and other professionals to collaborate and provide/receive real-time feedback. As we have learned both indirectly and directly in CEP 813, feedback is an essential component in the growth process of any individual. We learn not only from receiving feedback, but also from reviewing our colleagues’ work and providing feedback.

Moreover, by publishing content on the web, I am not only establishing a digital profile and presence within my network of collaborators, I am also opening the door to a global network and audience, allowing for richer, more diverse feedback. By using digital portfolios, educators (and students) are able to make connections with other professionals on the web, establishing a sense of community in a digital context. This has been feature of WordPress that I have truly enjoyed since starting this blog.

Perhaps one of the most impressive affordances of using a digital portfolio for learning and professional growth is that it is both useful AND useable. Not only do digital portfolios allow users to publish text, images, files, etc., they are also accessible. Most Content Management Systems (CMSs) can be accessed on almost any networked device, such as but not limited to: cell phones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, and desktop computers. The ability to access and share information anytime, anywhere takes learning beyond the confines of the classroom walls and turns it into a life-wide experience, reconnecting learning and life. Likewise, the accessibility also extends to viewers who can see new postings in real-time, allowing them to post comments quickly and easily. This is a game-changer for giving and receiving feedback.

In addition to being useable, content management systems offer various tools and supports making them very useful. For example, the review comments feature that allows users to view, accept, or decline public feedback on posts prior to them being viewable to the public is very useful for shy users or users who lack confidence. This way they can still receive feedback without fearing what others may think when they see it. Actually, I prefer this tool so I can manage spam and unrelated posts, but from an instructors perspective, it is a great support to ensure students are not giving or receiving inappropriate feedback. Another useful tool is automatic email notifications whenever there is activity on your site or on the site of those you follow. This way users can manage their online presence and decide how active they want to be with other bloggers they follow.

While my digital portfolio could use some fine tuning and organization, I genuinely appreciate having a medium that allows me to record my thoughts and share my work. There are so many features and supports that digital portfolios offer that often go unnoticed. Before, I don’t think I truly appreciated the global audience and connections I have made with other professionals through this WordPress blog because I didn’t understand the importance of community and feedback. Currently, I value and appreciate the connections and dialogue much more than I had and from a new perspective, too now that I know how to use the feedback given. Before this course, I wasn’t entirely sure how to use a digital portfolio as an assessment tool, but as we bring this course to a close, I have a much better understanding of how utilize digital portfolios in my content area as well as how to assess student learning and provide effective feedback.