The classrooms of fall 2020 have changed a great deal from those of late winter/early spring 2020. Many of the physical classroom spaces have only a teacher in them who is working virtually with students. Others have less than half the regular number of students in them. Where we once had students working together in small groups and pairs, we now see tape on the floor and across tables to ensure social distancing. Often the stress felt in the need to change pedagogical practices by teachers is palpable. The focus of the need for change is most notable in teachers asking about how to do student assessments in all virtual or hybrid classrooms.

When probing at whether teachers are looking for assistance with formative or summative assessments, the majority or asking how to give a “test” – summative assessment or a formalized diagnostic type of assessment.  The focus on formative assessments is not always paramount in the teacher’s minds, yet there is nothing we do as educators that is more powerful than a formative assessment. These daily or at least bi-weekly assessments help to determine what instruction should happen next in classrooms and what content needs to be taught and retaught. However, as teachers work face to face with students only 2 days per week or only virtually, the role of formative assessments becomes more critical than ever.

Creating a hybrid classroom that is rich in formative assessments is a necessity that is not that time consuming but will produce information about the progress of each student that will be more essential to the “in-person” classroom time than in prior years. For teachers to create classrooms that support hybrid learning involves working with teachers on developing a flipped learning mindset. Flipped learning is a pedagogical approach where the concept of new learning is done in an individual space rather than a group space. The group space time (in person in the classroom) becomes a dynamic space whereby students spend their time in the application of the new learning along with having time with the teacher to engage in creativity and group “think” about the learning.

Flipped learning changes the way teachers approach the planning and delivery of instruction. Planning times means creating resources for students to be exposed to the new learning through videos, computer applications, and other resources that will replace what the teacher has known as the “lecture” or “In-person delivery of new knowledge”. This concept often overwhelms teachers, but it doesn’t have to. We need to provide teachers with permission to use already existing high-quality instructional materials from others, including teachers, publishers, and software applications that can assist with reducing the burden of creating a new video done by the teacher for every class.

Once teachers have tried flipped learning, they find that they have much more time for formative assessments and are able to spend time working with students more at the individualized instructional level of each student.  These formative assessments may take many forms. There are the in-person traditional approaches of tickets out the door, short quizzes, classroom discussions, and questions and answers. In a hybrid classroom, the teacher may use these more traditional approaches but can also use online formative assessments like those inside applications such as Kahoot, NearPod, Flipgrid, Padlet, and Socrative. These are just a few of the apps that are available and all of these are free to educators. Each of these allows for the creation of electronic formative assessments that students may do online and during flipped learning as well in the classroom with technology support. Providing students with online formative assessments during their in-home/virtual classroom time allows for immediate feedback to the student and the teacher and helps the teacher maximize the focus of the in-person learning time.

Imagine your classroom with students coming in with background knowledge and at least exposure to the concepts that you will be working with them today. Allowing students to watch a video or explore a presentation before coming to class creates at least a foundation for moving students from the knowledge level to the application level at a more rapid pace. Further, imagine that after watching the video or exploring the presentation students completed a formative assessment that captured the level of retention of new or enhanced knowledge about a topic that allowed you to spend your in-person classroom time focused on just what students need to create knowledge at the application level that will ultimately move them more rapidly to mastery. Ah, hybrid instruction, I think I really like you!

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