Professional Development Plan: Impact on Student Learning (PDPISL)

             Research consistently supports the importance of formative evaluation if it is utilized properly.  Ian Clark describes the importance of formative assessment by stating the following:

“Formative assessment is a potentially powerful instructional process because the

practice of sharing information that supports learning is embedded into the instructional process by design.  If the potential of formative assessment is to be realized, it must

transform from a collection of abstract theories and research methodologies and

become a creative and systematic classroom practice.” (Clark, 2012) 


My exploration of the research related to the formative evaluative process generated three major themes:  first, the importance of student and parental involvement in the learning process; second, the importance of data driven instruction; and third, the importance of varied measurement strategies that do not require an excessive amount of time.  In the remainder of this paper, I will review the three themes identified in research and create a formative assessment model that can be utilized in the vast majority of classrooms.

             Student and parental involvement is critical to the educational process.  The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) federal grant program requires significant parental involvement and the importance of research-based programs for student intervention.  One research-based method that has been given a great deal of attention is goal setting and formative assessment.  One of the many approaches within this method is the utilization of portfolio assessment.

             In an article written by Tumarkin and Weldon the authors discuss the use of portfolio assessment at an elementary school (Tumarkin, 1998).  The authors identify the purposes of the portfolio process as documenting a student’s growth, encouraging student ownership and responsibility for learning, and empowering students and teachers to engage in complex learning and thought processes (Tumarkin, 1998).  Students were encouraged to assess their own growth, reflect on strengths and establish goals for the future (Tumarkin, 1998). 

             The parental involvement connection for the school referenced by Tumarkin and Weldon commenced with several initiatives: First, staff members adopted a new philosophy with greater emphasis on continuous and open communication between the school and home; Second, the school educated parents related to the portfolios in events such as back-to-school night and parent conferences; Third, the principal’s weekly newsletter had a section devoted to the portfolio process; and Finally, the school conducted early morning parent coffee hours to inform parents about grade-level curriculum and school-wide initiatives (Tumarkin, 1998).  According to a survey conducted by the school: 85% of the parents stated that the portfolio helped them gain a better understanding of their child’s growth in learning (Tumarkin, 1998).  Portfolios are excellent sources for collecting formative assessment pieces over a longer period of time (Tumarkin, 1998).  However, it is also important to have short-term data to inform instruction.

               A major recognition program established by the federal government related to the NCLB grants is the “Blue Ribbon Schools” (The Education Innovator, 2007).  These schools are recognized for their excellence in student academic performance even though the student population consists of students coming from low socio-economic status families (The Education Innovator, 2007).  In reviewing two articles published in The Education Innovator I found a common theme for the recognized schools (The Education Innovator, 2007).  The principal of the first school mentioned, a magnet high school in Riviera Beach, Florida stated that the comprehensive change related to implementing data-driven best practices as well as ensuring vertical teaming and instructional alignment were critical to the school’s success (The Education Innovator, 2007).  The teachers and administrators of the second school mentioned, an elementary charter school in Glendale, Arizona, attribute part of their success to an assessment program that incorporates evaluations on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual basis (The Education Innovator, 2007).  The final school mentioned serves elementary students and is located in Washington D.C.  This article emphasizes that one of the critical components of the program is an extended learning day with targeted tutorials based on student data (The Education Innovator , 2006). 

Data driven instruction and student/parent involvement are two important components of a successful learning environment, but a great deal of concern has arisen in education related to two concepts: (1) many educators, parents and others feel that teachers are spending so much time focusing on the state summative assessments that much of the curriculum such as the fine arts are being relegated to secondary importance or being totally ignored; and (2) the focus on the state summative assessments is causing teachers to spend so much time in benchmark assessment for the purpose of predicting performance on the summative tests that teachers are losing a great deal of instructional time.  Therefore, the ability for teachers to incorporate formative assessment into their basic instructional strategies is critical.  Two methods of gathering data with the above goals in mind are: questioning techniques and technology.

The two basic goals of questioning are to engage students in the instructional process and encourage higher levels of thinking (The Science Teacher, 2012).  The author of the article “The snowball questioning method” states that the development of the method stemmed from the number of students that used to respond to questions with total silence, “I don’t know”, or simply blush with embarrassment (The Science Teacher, 2012). The author noticed that these responses were particularly true of English Language Learners (ELLs) and special needs populations (The Science Teacher, 2012).  The snowball system consists of the following steps: (1) ask a question and give all students 30 to 60 seconds to come up with a response; (2) pair two students and give them the chance to discuss their ideas and come up with a mutually agreeable response; (3) combine two pairs together so that they can share answers and come up with an agreeable response; and (4) randomly select one member from each group of four to share the group response with the rest of the class, making sure that opportunities were given to other group member to state their opinions if they differed from the group consensus (The Science Teacher, 2012).  This approach accomplished the two major goals of significantly increasing student participation and generating a much greater likelihood that a well thought out response would be presented (The Science Teacher, 2012).

Technology is a major component in formative assessment.  Three uses of technology are collecting data, using student management systems to store and view student data to develop a comprehensive picture of the student, and utilizing computerized instructional programs to individualize instruction.  Clicker systems are an example of using technology as a means of collecting data as the system allows all students to respond to a question and provides immediate feedback (Dirksen, 2011).  The potential of student management systems is described in an article by Angela Pascopella (Pascopella, 2012).  Pascopella states that new technology is now allowing districts to compile a complete picture that allows districts to make predictions about student performance in the future (Pascopella, 2012).  Finally, utilizing computer programs to individualize instruction is referenced in an article by Elby Vaz Nascimento (Nascimento, 2012).  Nascimento discusses a system for providing computer generated feedback that has individualized instruction and has provided immediate feedback that would not otherwise be possible in a distance learning environment (Nascimento, 2012). 

Based on the research reviewed for this paper an effective formative assessment model will include student and parent input, data collected at frequent intervals, and incorporate time-management strategies that will make the model a reasonable system for the classroom teacher.  My model is presented as a sequential list of activities:

1.       Formative assessment has to begin with a clear understanding of the learning objectives. The determination needs to be made related to what measurable behavior(s) is expected when the student has mastered the state mandated curriculum. (long term goals)

2.       A task analysis of each behavior has to be conducted so that there is a clear understanding of the sub-skills that are required in order for the student to exhibit mastery of the long-term goal. The foundation of these sub-skills is identified in the state curriculum by examining expectations for an objective at earlier grade levels. However, the state curriculum rarely has the specificity required to completely master concepts. The teacher must have a clear understanding of items one and two with the ability to verbalize the goals in the teacher’s own words before ever soliciting parent and student involvement.

3.       The teacher needs to have regular meetings/communications with the students and parents in order to explain the long and short term goals, solicit parent and student ideas related to the goals, and describe the various methods the teacher will utilize to review with students and parents the progress being made in achieving the goals. Technology can be an excellent resource for this communication via printouts of student performance collected electronically during the process and with online communication through the student management system that allows parents and students to track confidential information because of personalized logins and passwords.  Parent and student understanding of the goals are critical because both parents and students need to understand the value for learning each objective.  This process is also an excellent method of data gathering for teachers related to what students and parents’ value, student interests, and what students and parents perceive as student strengths and weaknesses.    

4.       Once the set of long term and short term goals are established the teacher needs to formulate lesson plans that are relevant to the students and establish a daily measureable objective.  Data related to this objective should be collected during the instructional process via activities such as questioning techniques, bell ringer problems, ticket out responses, clicker systems, classroom discussions, peer review opportunities, and flipped instruction.  The appropriate activity will depend on the complexity of the objective being measured.  Two common pitfalls of measurable objectives are (1) teachers have a tendency to create objectives that only measure basic understanding and do not offer opportunities for measuring complex learning and (2) teachers assume that the only valid method of collecting data is via quizzes and formal assessments. An important component of this process is that students have the ability to express in their own words the objective for each day and why the objective is important.

5.       Communication is the key.  Students and parents should be receiving almost continuous feedback with a minimum of a written report weekly.  The feedback does not have to be complicated or extensive.  The feedback should include three major components: (1) the long term objective; (2) the short term objective, and (3) the progress that has been made during the week. The areas on the form for the long and short term objectives can be pre-populated. The progress made during the week can be as simple as a stop-light color coding for young children and their parents to a great work, acceptable progress, and we need to talk for the older students and their parents.      


Works Cited

Clark, I. (2012, October 6). "Formative assesment: a stematic and artistic process of instructions for supporting school and lifelong learning.". Retrieved from Canadian Journal of Eductaion 35.2: 24+. Academic One File:

Dirksen, D. J. (2011). Hitting the reset button: using formative assessment to guide instruction. Retrieved from Phi Delta Kappan 92.7: Academic OneFile:

Nascimento, E. V. (2012). "Intelligent tutoring system for distance education.". Retrieved from Journal of Information Systems & Technology Management 9.1: Academic OneFile :

Pascopella, A. (2012, March). "A crystal ball for student achievement: predictive analysis is taking hold in some school districts--and getting results.". Retrieved from District Administration 62+. Academic OneFile:

The Education Innovator . (2006, October 12). "Burrville Elementary School: three years later the Blue Ribbon continues to wave.". Retrieved from The Education Innovator: Academic OneFile. :

The Education Innovator. (2007, November). "NCLB Blue Ribbon School of choice: innovating to achieve the goals of NCLB.". Retrieved from The Education Innovator: Academic OneFile:

The Science Teacher. (2012). "The snowball questioning method.". Retrieved from The Science Teacher 79.4: Academic OneFile.:

Tumarkin, S. R. (1998). " Parent involvment: more power in the portfolio process.". Retrieved from Childhood Education 75.2(1998): 90+. Academic OneFile: