7 assessment tools to help know what students are learning

7 Assessment Tools and Tips to Know What Your Students Are Really Learning

Garnett Hillman

How do we know our students have mastered the standards we are supposed to teach? Assessment coach Garnett Hillman helps us understand how our assessments tools and methods need to change. (We might even learn that we don't have to grade so much and get better results.) Garnet shares seven assessment tools and tips to help us know what students are learning.

[callout]Help Teaching.com has a test maker that will help you with your assessments. You can find questions by grade level, subject, and Common Core standards. Try the Help Teaching Test Maker(TM). Help Teaching's assessment tools work. Thank you Help Teaching, for sponsoring today's show! [/callout]

Important Takeaways

  • What are the most common mistakes teachers make when assessing students?
  • How can you improve your current assessments to better meet standards?
  • Why should formative assessments be more reflective?
  • Why just giving number grades as feedback doesn’t work and what to do instead.
  • How can you grade less and get better results?

Interview Links

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Mike August 14, 2015 - 2:40 pm

Hello Vicki. Thanks for sharing such an interesting interview. While you were interviewing your guest, you asked for her definition of a formative assessment. I’m not sure that she actually gave a full definition. I hear the term thrown around a lot during the school year, and I was wondering if there are certain criteria that define something as a formative assessment? I’m asking because I don’t think that administrators and teachers are always on the same page as to what is an appropriate form of assessment. Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Vicki Davis August 14, 2015 - 8:18 pm

Hi Mike — so the term is formative assessment. It isn’t the same thing as “form of assessment” but I’m wondering if autocorrect got ahold of that.

This link is great from Carnegie Mellon. But here is how I think of it. It is likely not precise and I may have a research “after” me but here goes.

I see formative assessment as happening WHILE knowledge is forming. I’m assessing to see WHAT is forming in their minds. But we have to be careful about what many teachers used to do. They just asked students “do you have it.” OK, the students don’t know what they know. So, I prefer using something like plickers or Kahoot or Socrative. You can ask a question on the fly and see what the students really know at that moment. Some people do this with “clickers.”

But you’re trying to gauge what they know as you’re teaching. So you know you’re doing your job. Summative is a summary of what they’ve learned at the end of a unit or section. I often don’t grade formative but you could.

I hope this helps. Thanks for asking.

Leona Hinton September 9, 2015 - 10:25 am

Hi, Vicki!
Thank you for great interview. I will definitely use Garnett`s tips during the lessons. I thought about them and found out that my main mistake is not checking students` self-study writing work on plagiarism, which is probably letting them to cheat and not demonstrate their own ideas and thoughts. While assessing, I have to be focused on their way of thinking and be sure that all the conclusions were made by each student personally. I read an article about modern tools and add-ons connected to this problem ( http://elearningindustry.com/5-learning-management-system-add-ons-never-thought ) and realized that I can solve it with it`s help. I agree with Garnett, every teacher have to think about his methods and if something goes wrong, change them for better.

Vicki Davis September 10, 2015 - 4:24 am

It is hard to make sure thoughts are authentic. I think this is where relationship comes in. When I know each student’s work, it is easier to know if it is theirs. While that is not always practical in huge classes, it is certainly something that we should aim for. Thanks for the comment and the link.


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