Formative Assessment – Calling an Audible in the Classroom

Formative Assessment – Calling an Audible in the ClassroomIf you follow football at all you’d know that Peyton Manning is having an epic year! He’s on pace, at age 37, to set career highs in almost all categories and his team is favored to win the AFC title if not the Super Bowl. His success, as highlighted by Jason Glass in his blog at Educational Elements – Peyton Freaking Manning – is based on talents that good teachers also possess.

One of the things I enjoy most about watching Manning play is his ability to adapt his play (and the play of those around him) based on changing circumstances and conditions.  One play might be called in the huddle, but on the line of scrimmage Manning reads the defense for early warning signs of where the opponents intend to attack.  He calmly and efficiently adjusts formations, blocking schemes, pass routes, or changes the play altogether depending on the circumstances.

Those who watch football know that what Peyton does better than most is call an ‘audible’, which is to say, he reads the defense and based on the feedback he gets he adjusts the original play. The new play will take into account the defensive formation and is based on Peyton’s instinct on what they’ll do. Like good teaching, experience and feedback can help adjust – on the fly – what needs to take place for success.

As Jason says in his blog…

The effective educator reads the situation from available formative information and a qualitative understanding of the students.  When the carefully laid plan isn’t working for some students, the effective educator quickly adapts and, at the very first warning signs, changes the approach and tactics to find a way to reach each student.  The effective educator also calls on and directs the talented team of supporting educators to make sure every student is provided an instructional approach that works for them.

This is a great definition of formative assessment (as well as a picture of effective educators), and which is basically a teacher calling an audible in the classroom. Teachers come prepared to teach a lesson. They begin their lesson and along the way measure their students’ understanding of what’s being taught. They can do this through any number of formative assessment techniques that work to elicit evidence of student learning. Depending on what the teacher gathers for evidence, they either continue with their ‘game plan’ or they call an audible and change things up.

New quarterbacks in the NFL call fewer audibles. Instead, they rely on their coaches and experienced players to help them read defenses and make adjustments. The more experience they get, the more apt they are to call an audible on their own. Likewise, newer, less-experienced teachers need to collaborate with their teacher leaders to learn what works in their classroom; how they reach, measure and adjust their classroom instruction to meet each students’ needs. Whether that teacher collaboration comes from Teacher Learning Communities (TLCs) as we’ve proposed, or from faculty meetings, or even over coffee in the teacher lounge, that collaboration of techniques and strategies is paramount to success in the classroom – or success on the football field. Having Manning as my fantasy football quarterback this year is great. Having a teacher calling audibles in my child’s classroom is even better. Who knows what records they could achieve together?

Photo courtesy of US Presswire