The goal of summative assessment is most often to measure student learning at the end of a topic or unit by comparing it against some ‘standard’ – i.e. a grade or level. Summative assessments – tests, exams, final projects etc. – are often high stakes and ‘one-off’, and in many students this can lead to a ‘fixed mindset‘ approach to them.
On the other hand, the goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning by providing ongoing feedback that can be used by students to improve their learning. This process should help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work, and in the process help teachers identify where extra support/teaching is needed.
What if we could do both at once? Do we have to choose? Isn’t that what the growth mindset is all about?
Possibilities for using a mock exam formatively:
- Revisit questions answered incorrectly – students go back and improve, then remark!
- Break questions down and attempt as a rally
- Get students to mark / coach each other
- Agree as a class what is required for the marks in advance
- Use previous papers to help recognise the type of question and the style of answer
- Identify common misconceptions to address with students – build this in to D.I.R.T
- Reflect on one’s own teaching of problem areas to identify gaps in teaching /learning
- Co-construct a WAGOLL by taking the best student answers from each question – groups have ownership of a ‘perfect’ model paper
- Incorporate quick strategies like a ‘5 minute steal’ or use question tokens during the exam – students can ask you questions but it will cost them a token!
If you’re going to set a mock exam, you might as well make it work for you. I strongly recommend getting into a habit wherever possible of marking mocks quickly enough so that students can act on your feedback in the next lesson, therefore planning your next lesson for you. If this isn’t practical, why not get them to mark their own/each others in class? Some teachers would recoil in horror at the idea (“what if they cheat?”) So what! Let them ‘cheat’ if it helps them learn! After all, we can never go back in time, all we want our students to do is to do better next time.
How do we ensure that students do better next time? Give them the time and opportunity to improve – D.I.R.T or ‘MAD time’ next lesson. Here’s an example of the guidance given to Engineering students the lesson after their recent mock exam:
They then had a good chunk of the next lesson to ensure they went back and improved their score by at least ten marks. Simple, no bother formative assessment leading to progress for the students.
If you use any of the ideas from this post, please leave a comment below and let us know how well it worked!