Think about how you check for understanding in your classroom. Often, when we look at formative assessment in the classroom, we can find it to be an onerous experience. Discovering what students know, while they are still in the process of learning concepts can be a challenge. As classroom teachers we need to determine our students level of understanding, this in turn provides us with a point of reference, moving forward.

Formative assessment often happens very naturally in our classrooms as we walk around and observe student conversations or look at students work (demonstrations of learning). My interest lies in using educational technology to support formative assessment practices, which hopefully will improve the way we engage in meaningful, sustainable and current assessment methods.

We know that educational technology can improve the ability to offer formative assessment to our learners’ during our instructional processes. The use of technology can support our learners in a multitude of ways, some of which include:

  • Providing immediate feedback
  • Aim to improve and the tracking of student progress
  • Improve student learning, engagement and participation

It can be challenging to determine where students are at, and traditional assessment practices often provide us with one type of information (a single data point). We are challenged with the thought of, where to go next?

In addition we can look at the diversification in our classrooms with respects to student needs and abilities, learning styles, cultures and language barriers; we need to be as creative with our delivery of assessment opportunities as we are with our delivery of curriculum.

What problem am I hoping to address?

I think teachers often don’t feel comfortable with implementing technology in their classroom, let alone using it for assessment practices. As well, I think that many schools don’t have access to the appropriate technology, and those schools that do, don’t have training or professional development opportunities available.So I am curious to find out, what our school districts can do to address the reluctance of teachers using technology for assessment?

I was particularly interested in the article, Using Technology for Formative Assessment to Improve Students’ Learning, as the study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of using a digital classroom response system such as Plickers.

What is Plickers you ask?
Plickers is a technology based formative assessment tool, which is designed to improve students learning by making it quick and simple to check for student understanding. This tool allows teachers to collect data (on the spot) without the need for devices or pencil and paper.

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The idea that using technology to facilitate formative assessment provides students with just in time, specific feedback and improves their overall performance.

The participants in this research consisted of 166 students representing grades 9-12 students. The researchers used a questionnaire consisting of 17 items related to the importance and effectiveness of using formative assessment, technology, Plickers and whether or not they would plan to use the tech in future classrooms. The researchers used a cluster sampling technique as they wanted to have students from various grades and subject areas participate.

The researchers included some open ended questions, which provided participants the opportunity to elaborate, in depth on their perceptions of using Plickers as a tool for formative assessment to improve their learning. The results and discussion of the students responses using the mean and standard deviation statistics and the responses to open-ended questions are listed below in the table.


“The qualitative material generated from open-ended questions may reveal innermost thoughts, frames of reference, emotional reactions and cultural assumptions that may or may not be accessible by other methods.” (Woike, 2007, p. 293).


Many of the emerging themes from these responses included: engagement, checking for understanding, equal opportunity to participate, excitement and fun, saving on learning time, breaking the routine, ease of use, network problem and lack or infrastructure in schools.


The Results indicate that formative assessment is enhanced by the use of technology, therefore improving student learning, increasing engagement and making learning more individualized. In addition the results of this study indicate that using an app such as Plickers provides more immediate feedback and leads to creating more effective teaching and learning. Increasing student interest ultimately leads to more effective teaching and learning and increases student participation.


Lastly, the researchers pointed out based on the results and findings this study recommends instructors to do the following:

  • Engage their students in formative assessment processes to gauge understanding and correct misconceptions
  • Reflect on their teaching activities and strategies
  • Integrate technology into their classrooms as it enhances students learning
  • Utilize new digital apps and software (such as Plickers) that aid in applying formative assessment in their classroom


Furthermore, the research article spoke to teacher reluctance to adopt technology in their teaching practice. The common theme highlighted was lack of technological support for educators.


I connected with this research article because it spoke to the importance of student engagement, while also trying to debunk some of the misconceptions people have around using technology to support formative assessment. In my current practice I find that I tend to use technology in isolation and would like to explore opportunities to think about extending my teaching practice, by incorporating the use of tech in a more cross curricular approach as well as for assessment practices.


Where to next?


I feel that we have great tech support in school district 52 (Prince Rupert), and yet I sense there is still a reluctance to fully incorporate the use of technology for assessment practices. I relate to this, and can attest to the hesitations I have had. I definitely plan to extend my thinking and challenge myself to use more technology in my classroom as well as look to use technology to support my assessment practices. So I am left to consider thinking about these questions.


How do teachers gain confidence to increase their use of technology for formative assessment?

What can school districts do to bridge the gap to ensure that technology use increases?


It seems that it should be as simple as providing technological support and training, however what does that look like? It may look very different from one district to the next.


Resources to explore: