Jeff Goins has a great guest post over at Michael Hyatt’s blog titled The Surprising Success We Find in Failure. In it he discusses how pivoting can turn what might be deemed a failure into something exceptional. He uses the example of Eric Lefkofsky and his start up The Point. His original idea of using social media to bring groups of people together to solve social problems was not working, and in fact lost $1 million in its first year. Rather than give up, they pivoted, or changed their business model. This change resulted in Groupon, which raised over $13 billion in its successful IPO.
The lesson? Being able to pivot or make changes on the fly is an important part of entrepreneurial success. It’s also an important part of sports, such as football, where quarterbacks call an audible at the line to adjust to the defense they’re facing. Teachers need to be able to pivot or call an audible in their classrooms as well, and in fact this is an important part of formative assessment and what makes it such a valuable tool for educators.
An effective teacher uses formative assessment tactics and strategies to check for student understanding. When the teacher’s lesson plan isn’t working for some students, they adapt and change their approach to reach each student. This pivot in the teacher’s approach is the outcome from formative assessment.
Teachers who consciously use formative assessment– to support learning – understand that formative assessment is not a thing or an event (such as a test or a quiz), but an ongoing, cyclical process that is a seamless part of the classroom culture and routine. Using simple techniques, they quickly extract pointed information about student understanding during commonplace classroom activities. They analyze this information on the spot, and then use it to make instructional decisions that address the understandings and misunderstandings the evidence reveals.
Successful entrepreneurs are like teachers in this way; getting their client’s feedback and reading the markets to determine what they need to change. Almost every successful company has changed course at some point in their existence as a result of changes in the market. Amazon started out selling books but now sells almost anything imaginable. eBay was founded to facilitate the trading of Pez dispensers but it’s certainly much more than that now. Good teachers start with a well-built lesson plan, but depending on how students absorb and understand information, that plan may need to change. That’s the heart of formative assessment.