Using Assessments and Knowledge of Students to Inform Instruction

6.3 Designing Student Assessments to Inform Planning: Teacher plans to use assessment results to plan for future instruction for groups of students. 3.2 Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness in Lesson Adjustments: Teacher makes a minor adjustment to a lesson, and the adjustment occurs smoothly. To me, the first standard means that a teacher is using assessments, whether before, during, and/or after, to alter the course of the lesson plans. The second standard addresses a teacher’s ability to alter and adapt lessons “on the go” when it is observed that a student is not understanding a concept. I think that it also means that the teacher has enough knowledge of individual students and their learning to group them appropriately for certain activities and lessons. I grouped these two standards together because I feel that both knowledge of students and formative assessments can be used to plan for future instruction of groups of students.

For one of my first observations during Internship, I wrote a lesson to introduce my students to fractions on a number line. Before the lesson and before even discussing the concept of a number line fraction, students were given a Show What You Know (pre-assessment) to gauge their prior understanding of the concept. Out of 17 students, all but one got all five questions incorrect. I knew I had a lot to teach them, and they had a lot to learn. Using this assessment, I jumped right into the lesson. Very quickly, however, I noticed that students were not able to conceptualize the ideas, concept, and format in which I was presenting it. We soon ended the day’s lesson, and I taught the rest on the following day. I adjusted my plans for the lesson, and started the next day with a hands-on activity involving folded strips of paper. Between the two lessons, I used the materials I had for a pipe cleaner activity, and put together differentiated materials, based on what I knew about my students, for my low learners and my high learners. I used baggies to sort out the individual fraction cards that students would use to show fractions on a number line/pipe cleaner.

Lower level learners received benchmark fractions, such as ½, 1/3, ¼, 2/4, etc. Students who were more advanced learners received more complex fractions such as 3/8 or 4/5. With all students receiving baggies, students were not aware that they were working on tasks that were appropriate for their own learning—they may just have assumed that when they reached their hand blindly into the baggie to pull out a fraction card, they lucked out with a fraction that they could handle.

display board fractions on a number line

Completed fractions on a pipe cleaner/number line.

Being able to be flexible while teaching and use what one knows about how a certain student learns, combined with what they already know, is important in helping maximize student learning during a lesson. Through the number line fraction lesson, and countless others, I was able to focus instruction to each student who needed it, and applied what I had learned about each student to help their growth.

learning target fraction number line

Learning Target Reflections and folded number line fractions.

For example, one student struggling to create a number line with a pipe cleaner needed reminders to relate the pipe cleaner to a folded piece of paper, an activity which had been done at the beginning of the lesson. This connection clicked instantly for that student, and she was able to continue forward without ease. At the end of the three lessons on number line fractions, the scores for my students went up significantly, with more than 70% of my students scoring Advanced on the assessment.

pre and post assessments fractions on a number line

Pre (left) and post-assessment for one of  my lowest learners. 

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