Please discuss the types of informal assessments (what teachers do in the classroom each day to check for student understanding of lesson) by defining each type and listing different advantages and disadvantages that are specific to only that type of assessment.
I have not had much classroom experience teaching yet, so I am somewhat struggling with this. Any help/guidance would be appreciated. -4 types with advantages and disadvantages that are specific to each type. Specific examples of when each would be used would also be insightful since I have not been in the classroom for many years!
One simple method of informal assessment which I often used when teaching difficult material was to put a question and answer about the material on the board and then ask the students if they understood the question, and then if they understood the answer. At their desks, they could put a thumb up for "yes, I get it", a thumb down for "I don't get it at all, I'm lost", or put a thumb halfway for "I sort of get it but need more help". We also at times used a three sided card which had those messages written on the card which could be turned to the appropriate answer for each student. It kept their answer rather private, allowed me to review the material again, and then again, ask if they understood. Once most of them indicated they understood, then I began to ask students specific questions about the material.
In a broad definition, informal assessments are the task-specific opportunities given for the student to demonstrate content mastery and performance mastery. Specific assessments vary depending upon the academic task at hand. For example, if teaching reading, phoneme awareness might be included in informal assessment. It would have no place, however, in studies of English Literature. For this academic study, identifying the elements that comprise setting or mood may be included in informal assessment.
Informal assessment can take place any number of ways, including using pre-writing or pre-testing, where you measure student knowledge on a subject before you teach it, but without assignment grade values to the work. Another form of informal assessment can be random questioning of students during instruction or practice. Rather than choosing kids that raise their hands only, you can then get a good sampling of class understanding by making sure anyone could be called on, whether they volunteer or not.
What I have found that can be of help in assessing understanding in students with regard to literature, is to have the students retell a story. What can make it advantageous is if the students can work in groups: some kids can draw while the others write short summaries for each picture. Their "books" can then be presented to the class.
We tried one exercise in a grad. class where we had the kids make up ads for billboards, covering the most important aspects of what they had read, using pictures and phrases to "advertise" the book or article's message. This is still done in a group setting. It is presented to the class, picture is hung on the wall, discussed, etc.
Working in a group helps kids to pool their knowledge. It generates discussion. If there is at least one strong student in the group, others can contribute what they know so that everyone has a full understanding when the project is over. There is still the need to spend a chunk of quality time with each group to make sure they are on task, and to answer questions, etc. I find that while this is engaging, it may take more class time than you might first anticipate. If you can dedicate the right amount of time so the kids aren't overly rushed (except for those who are goofing off...and that it is their choice--move kids who care about their performance and are being held back by those who don't...), I think the overall benefits far outweigh the pressure a teacher faces "losing" that extra day of classroom instruction.
If your students really resist answering questions orally, try having some sort of "exit pass" as a means of assessing student outcomes from the day's lessons. There are lots of forms this could take:
-You could have students list one thing they "really get", one thing they "somewhat understand", and one thing that is "still confusing" from the day's work.
-You could ask students to record in 10 words or less the main point developed in the day's activities (forces them to commit their knowledge to paper!)
-You could read a series of numbered statements and have them rate each statement by the corresponding number on their paper - 1 means completely true, 3 means completely false, 5 means unsure, whatever...
Reviewing such passes takes time but the concrete response is sometimes safer and more reliable. The key is getting students to understand the need to include their name on the paper and to see this as information for you, not a grade in the record by their name.
The best kinds of informal assessment are those which involve all students and therefore allow the teacher to assess if all students, not just the loud ones, have understood. There are lots of ways to try and acheive this, from using mini-whiteboards where students have to respond to a series of multiple choice questions to getting students to stand in a corner depending on what the answer to the question is. The advantages are that the teacher is able to establish who needs extra help and who doesn't.
I agree that one of the best informal assessments is simply class discussions/asking questions. The problem with this type is assessment is that not all students take part in class discussions. Therefore, this is a very hard generalized assessment to make.
In a classroom with a lot of technology, students may have hand-held "clickers" that can be used to key in answers to the teacher's questions. The advantage is that every student gets to answer every question, and the teacher can see and save the responses on her computer or SmartBoard, so there is individual accountability for each question; another big advantage is that the questions more or less grade themselves. The disadvantages are cost (of course), and the fact that the clicker responses are limited to true/false, multiple choice, or other simple forms of response.
Post 2 makes some good suggestions. Simply asking students in class to answer certain things will give you insight as to how much students really know. You can also give an assignment and have them work on it during class and what you can do is go around the room to see how students fare. This will also give you a sense as to where students are. Finally, I favor giving many quizzes, a few a week to keep students on their toes. You do not have to make them worth much in terms of grade. But by doing something like this keeps students caught up.
One kind of informal assessment is simply asking questions of students. The advantage to that is that you can do it very frequently. You can also do it in the middle of your lessons to make sure that people are following. This makes it useful for getting relatively constant feedback.
The major problem is that it's not very reliable and it can be pretty hard on students at times. Many students don't really like being called on and might make mistakes not because they don't know the answer but because they are stressed by being called on.