Monday, February 11, 2013

Real-time feedback

Using in-class polls, quizzes, and questions to shape instruction

I admit it: I have assessment on the brain lately.  While much of what has been rattling around in my head has had to do with summative assessment—in the form of rubrics, artifacts, and standardized tests such as SAILS and TRAILS (and automobiles?)—what I'm especially interested in investigating this semester is strategies for formative assessment.  At the library I work for, most of our instruction is limited to one-shot 50- or 80-minute class sessions, which means that taking time for assessment within class, to say nothing of ongoing assessment, can be challenging.  That's not to say that we're not pursuing other models of library instruction, but for right now, it's what we've got to work with.

Perhaps it is because we frequently only have this one-shot opportunity to connect with students and may not have the ability to follow up, that formative assessment—assessment that happens during the learning process—makes the most sense in terms of providing feedback on our teaching and guiding our instruction during that class period.  So, what if we were able to get quick and timely feedback that could shape our instruction in a more dynamic way?

Last spring, at the 2012 IPAL conference at Wartburg College, I attended a presentation by Carrie Dunham-LaGree from Drake University, in which she described how she had used Google Forms to assess her students' prior information literacy knowledge (see images below) at the beginning of library instruction sessions.  (Note: these forms have since been moved to Qualtrics.)

Asking students short, applied questions about using, finding, and evaluating sources, she was able to ascertain through the use of this form a baseline level of information literacy, which she then used to inform her instruction.
What was most interesting to me, was the way in which she then shared the results with students to create buy-in for what she was going to teach during that class session.  She used the results as a guide to shift the amount of time and emphasis she devoted to different portions of the lesson.  For example, results such as those below might mean she would spend more time showing students how to read citations, or move this section of the class to the beginning.

The combination of a flexible, modular lesson and real-time feedback was, in my opinion, brilliant! Carrie's presentation got me thinking about means and tools for informal and real-time assessment that we could use at my own library, and what role technology might play in all of this.

Especially as more and more students are using smartphones, I think the time is right to harness their use for quick and meaningful feedback during class.  This may be old news for some of my fellow instruction librarians (if so, please share your ideas below!), but it's something I'm just beginning to explore.  Tools that I have been experimenting with include Google Forms, Poll Everywhere, and interactive polls in LibGuides.  Whenever possible, I usually advocate for 'technology' that doesn't distract from learning objectives (think: whiteboards over SMART Boards), but I'm really intrigued by the possibilities that apps and interactive polls might afford.

These ideas are still developing in my own head, so I would be curious to hear what others have done with regard to informal assessment and customized instruction based on in-class feedback.  How do you incorporate informal, formative assessment into library instruction?  Are there any tools (digital or analog) you would recommend?  Have you experienced any fabulous successes (or failures)?

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