How to Choose a Formative Assessment Platform to Optimize Data-Based Teaching

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By:  Cynthia M. Ho, Professor at Loyola University School of Law

Formative assessment not only helps students learn, but the data from this can help faculty teach more efficiently as discussed here. However, not all formative assessment tools are created equal for this purpose.  If you want to optimize data to tailor your teaching, you’ve come to the right place!

What types of formative assessment?

Although there are a number of types of formative assessment, this post will focus on using data from short answer questions (MC, T/F, word cloud, etc.)

In class or outside of class?

Assessment tools may differ based on when they are used – in or outside of class.

There are a variety of in-class tools. There are also a number of tools for outside class assessment.  These include CALI lessons, quizzes associated with casebooks, as well as platforms for Civil Procedure and Legal Research.  Also, you can create your own questions in a learning management system (Blackboard, Canvas, TWEN, etc).

Given a number of options, which one should you choose?  Keep reading!

What to look for in choosing a formative assessment platform
The considerations differ for in-class vs. outside class assessment. To help you focus on what matters to you, the following chart highlights features for each to potentially consider.

Assessment method Features to consider
In-class – Is it easy for you to use in class?  (i.e. do you need to exist a slide presentation to start polling)

– Do you want to have the option to not reveal the correct answer immediately (if you want to encourage discussion of all answers first)

– Do you want to be able to see data on individual student performance and/or have a downloadable excel of data (Tophat and Socrative can but CALI’s Instapoll is always anonymous)

– Would you like students to be able to re-do questions later on their own time before seeing the correct answer for additional review (Tophat is good for this)

– Do you want the ability to have students engage in competitive teams (Socrative & Kahoot focus on this)

Outside class -Do students receive immediate and detailed feedback, including an explanation of wrong answers?

-Does data for faculty include:

-Data on class overall (i.e. how many got question right)?

-Data on selection of each answer option (i.e. A-D) since wrong answers may reveal different flaws in understanding?

-Online ability to jump from class data to actual question?

-Data on performance of individual students over several assignments to identify persistent issues that may indicate a need for more academic support?

Examples of good feedback for outside of class “objective” data:

 Feedback should ideally provide an explanation of what makes the correct answer best, as well as flaw(s) in the incorrect answer.

 Here’s some examples:

Now that you know what is helpful feedback for students, it’s time to see some examples of helpful data for faculty.

Examples of helpful detailed data on all answers to individual questions

Since I don’t have access to all platforms, I’m going to use examples available to all, beginning with a quiz in TWEN.

Here is the data from a quiz I gave students that reveals how many students chose the correct answer(s), as noted with an asterisk, as well as how many chose incorrect answers.

For those that teach Civil Procedure, Click & Learn can also provide data on individual questions.  This tool provides a bar graph of the number of students that got each question correct (darker color on the left) as well as the number that got it wrong.  A quick scan of the chart below reveals that question 2 was the toughest question for students.  The “Answer Breakdown” reveals how many students selected each choice for Q2.  It shows most chose the correct answer A, as noted in teal, and that the second-most popular choice was C.

Does the assessment platform link data to questions?

A program that enables you to easily link between overall student data and the question text is also helpful.  Otherwise you have to remember the question the students struggled with and then go into the Quiz itself to find the actual text of the question and answers.  Here are two examples again from TWEN and Click & Learn.

As shown below, the left side shows class performance for all questions.  Clicking on the question number reveals the actual text of the question and answers shown on the right.

Click & Learn provides the same functionality for those that teach Civil Procedure and adopt the text (i.e. require students to purchase it).  The below diagram shows what a faculty would see by clicking on Question 2.

What next?

Once you’ve chosen your formative assessment tool, you’re prepared to start using this data to tailor your class.  For details on that, check out How to Use Formative Assessment Data to Tailor Teaching “which will be next week’s blog post”.


Institute for Law Teaching and Learning