How do we use the December exam as formative assessment?

Our learners took exams (summative assessment) prior to the Christmas break.  But, can’t we use the exam as both a summative assessment AND a formative assessment?

I’m interested and curious about different strategies and methods used to help learners process and reflect on their exam experience and the accumulation of what they know.  Since each learner will have different bright spots and strengths, what strategies are used to differentiate for intervention and enrichment?

In Algebra I, we aim to get “in the weeds” about this reflection and intervention.  We want every child to reflect on what they could demonstrate well and where they need additional help.  We do not want them to move to high school and geometry next year with any doubt or weakness if we can help now.  But, how do we know who needs help?  We collect data, but we let our learners do the data collection.  We need to be informed; they need to be informed.  We are a team working toward the goal of mastery or proficiency for all learners.

Our process:

  1. Return the exam to the learner on the first day back.
  2. Have each learner complete the exam analysis and reflection form (shown below) to identify strengths and areas of need.
        1. Circle the number of any missed problem.
        2. Begin, and possibly complete, correcting missed problems to review the material and determine if any error was a simple mistake or if more help is needed.
        3. Write the reflection about strengths, struggles, and goals.
        4. Report results on our team’s Google doc. (This is a copy; feel free to explore and “report” data to see how it feels. You can view the results here.)
  3. Meet in team to review all results and analyze for groups to design and provide necessary intervention and additional learning experiences.
  4. All assessments 2nd semester will have questions from first semester essential learnings to offer learners the opportunity to show growth and to help with retention.

Okay…so I am a member of the Algebra I team, but it important to note that all members of our math PLC in the junior high follow approximately this same strategy for exam correction and reflection.   We are also shooting for this level of analysis with our science PLT and our US History PLT.  We have made it to stage one, having a table of specifications, and we hope to start working toward using the table of specifications for student reflection and growth.

We would love it if others would share methods and strategies for helping learners grow from an exam experience.  How do students reflect on their work?  What opportunities are offered to help students carry the essential learnings from first semester through second semester and/or into the next level of learning?

9 thoughts on “How do we use the December exam as formative assessment?”

  1. I am a member of this same Algebra I team. After filling out our table of specifications, doing exam corrections in class, and reporting results to the Google form, one of my students came to Office Hours after school, to ask questions about the exam and to continue working on her corrections. She did not quite get finished, and said she would return later in the week to complete her corrections. Then she asked if she could re-take the exam, just to be sure she could do the problems “from scratch”, because she knew that to be successful second semester, she would need to be proficient on previous material. Wow! How impressed was I. This was completely her idea. We discussed the fact that she may remember certain answers, but showing the work to get to those answers was the important thing. Also, to make this experience worth her additional effort, we decided to eliminate multiple choice answers, so she would work them as free response problems. I am so proud of the extra work she is willing to do; she is taking full advantage of the exam reflection process to learn exactly which problems she understands and which ones she needs to practice on.


  2. Great story, DD! Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so glad to see that our learners are motivated to continue to learn and grow. It is outstanding that this child is motivated by learning and not by the grade. Brava to both of you!


  3. Jill,
    I wrote a post last year on the final exam postmortem we do. I did basically the same thing this year and think it works well. More and more I find myself questioning the value of exams compared to other, more authentic and student-initiated demonstrations of understanding. So I’m trying to get my students to see the exam as a menu of questions I find interesting that they can play with, in the hopes that they will use them to develop and explore questions of their own.


  4. John, I agree with you completely about the value of exams compared to other, more authentic and student-initiated demonstrations of understanding. Our team – as every team – has different levels of understanding, comfort, and experience with PBL and PBA. And, our students have had very little exposure to PBA. Our team is striving for our Learning for Life vision statement for and with our learners. We want PBL, integrated studies, and balanced assessment. We also want our learners to improve their ability to reflect on their work and revise it to continue learning. The type of assessment, while very important, is only part of the process. We want our learners to self-reflect and self-assess and self-advocate.


  5. Hi Jill, Great post and great question. Every SA can retroactively become an FA as long as it is removed as a contributing factor toward final grade determination. The issue is only that grades can temper a students enthusiasm for reflection; kids with high grades might feel reflection is unnecessary while kids with low scores may feel reflection is pointless and unwelcome as they are so low. Any routine is ultimately judged by how students respond. if they respond productively then the routine is effective; if not, then it’s ineffective. I love the reflection form, the idea of planning interventions together, and the overlap w/ questions in 2nd semester. For me, as long as the December exam is only temporary and students will get full credit for any new levels of proficiency then a SA becomes a FA after the fact. Thanks for posting…Cheers!


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