Science Sampler: Visual formative assessments—The use of images to quickly assess and record student learningby: Gary Aylward

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Visual formative assessments (VFAs) allow more free more time for direct instruction. VFA’s guide students in using simple images to demonstrate the essential learnings within a unit to themselves and the teacher. VFAs are powerful because they engage students to coalesce their understanding into a concise visual image.

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Reviews (3)
  • on Tue May 24, 2011 6:46 PM

In this article, visual formative assessments (VFAs) become a method teachers can use to check for student understandings and provide information to inform instruction and determine where re-teaching and more practice are needed on a particular concept. The author uses the analogy of a cook in the kitchen, "The cook in the kitchen will not stop cooking if the soup does not taste the way it should" (Ayward, p. 41). The author provides sample VFAs and explains how VFAs engage students in the evaluation process using concise visual images. It is a quick way to check for student understanding, and it is nonthreatening to students because it is not graded. Therefore students are more willing to be honest in showing what they do (or do not) know. The author explains in detail two different VFAs that he has used in his classroom, provides a simple method for analyzing his students' responses, shows how he records the vital information on student understandings, and explains how he uses the data to inform his instructional practices. This is a very helpful article for a teacher looking for ways to include ongoing formative assessments as part of his/her teaching practice, and it is an especially useful strategy for a teacher to use with ELL students. It is this reviewer's wish that more examples had been provided and explained to make it clearer as to how to create one's own VFAs for classroom use.

Carolyn Mohr  (Buffalo Grove, IL)
Carolyn Mohr (Buffalo Grove, IL)

  • on Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:10 PM

The author describes a chart he uses for daily formative assessment where students fill in comic-type images that match terms they are learning. He describes two different ways to use these charts and how to follow-up with targeted differentiated instruction. It is an interesting way to do "bell-ringers". I am not sure how it would work in a classroom that didn't have a whiteboard/smart board like the one he describes. However, I can see how it would enable a quick assessment similar to an exit question at the start of class that could lead to useful instruction or as an exit question after a discussion. It is worth considering and possibly trying out. It will rely on the teacher's imagination to create useful classification questions.

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

  • on Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:45 AM

The author has developed visual formative assessments (VFA) to demonstrate the essential learning within a unit to students and to the teacher. While the teacher explains how students set these up and even provides an example, I found it difficult to follow this concept and the example seemed to be just a graphic organizer of a particular kind. The author provides a rubric as well. I think the idea of a visual graphic organizer to be useful especially to students with reading problems; I could not fully understand how to create a VFA from this article.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

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