Deeper Learning – Formative Assessments

Deeper learning is interacting with real world or simulated real world situations, often to solve a  challenges. Students develop a deep understanding of core academics and develop skills and attitudes, including inquiry, people skills, communications, self-directed learning, collaboration, innovation, and growth mindset that prepare them to interact more effectively with real world events and challenges. Deeper learning occurs in frameworks such as service learning, challenge-solving projects, expeditionary learning, project-based learning, and problem-based learning.

In providing deeper learning for students, teachers identify standards and other proficiencies the deeper learning will forward. In a deeper learning unit, proficiencies that might be identified and assessed (in addition to curriculum standards) include the “4Cs” – critical thinking, communications, collaboration, and creativity/innovation , as well as other deeper learning outcomes – inquiry, growth mindset, and self-directed learning.

Summative assessments or evaluations are for formal evaluation of students’ progress on identified standards and other proficiencies.

Formative assessments are continual, informal ways to determine how deeper learning curriculum/instruction needs to be adjusted or enhanced to meet learners’ needs.
Formative Assessments

Formative assessments are used in advance and throughout the deeper learning project or unit to make informal assessments of students’ needs. From formative assessments you determine whether students need further information and direction, motivation, scaffolding, or enrichment.


– By observing a group’s process you would determine whether students need more structure for effective small group process.

– By reviewing students’ self-assessments of their technology capabilities you have one indication of how grouping of students can offer peer support for using technology such as Skype or creating slide shows, web sites, videos or podcasts.

– By observing and noting whether a student or students have a pattern of wasting time, you could create scaffolds such as flow charts, checklists, buddy system or space away from distractions.

To formatively assess you can use:

. Students’ work sheets and graphic organizers
. Students’ questions
. Students’ verbal or written responses to questions you or students pose
. Exit tickets
. Observation of students’ independent work
. Students’ self-assessments
. Students’ peer assessments

In a seventh grade conserving energy challenge-solving project, the teacher continuously assessed students’ progress and needs. As she went around to each small group, she noted whether they were on track and whether they had questions for her. By analyzing students’ discussions, end of class reported-out statements, “Thinking Log” journal entries, Noteshare (an Apple application) notes, and small group self-assessments, the teacher, Mrs. Hurgin, gained data she used to determine further content information, process instructions, charts, and graphic organizers that were needed.

Student review and revision of their work is part of deeper learning. Students, often with consultation with peers, review their work with the goal of enhancing it. If the process includes students sharing what they want to enhance, this would be a student self-assessment that teachers can use to provide resources and other supports so students can strengthen their work.
For example:

– Based on how well chocolate melts in their solar melter in comparison to other pairs’ solar melters, fourth grade partners analyze design factors that make the difference. Partners then have the opportunity to construct a redesigned solar melter and try it out. Students who decide to make revisions, share with their class or teacher revisions they will make and why. With this information in mind, their teacher has data that can be used to provide support and resources to these students, if needed, and for students in future implementations of the unit.

Exit ticket  can help you know whether students are following procedures and are making progress. Students’ comments can help you determine whether they understand basic concepts that are needed to conduct their investigation and effectively synthesize their data.


For example:

In the seventh grade energy savings unit, an exit ticket asked students which additional energy sources their group would research. Based on their difficulty in listing sources, their teacher provided each group with an “energy sources web.”

– Students can be asked to put on their exit ticket an inquiry question they are in the process of researching.

This Edutopia YouTube video shows exit tickets in action.

Copyright Lee Anna Stirling 2015