Using Questioning as Formative Assessment

Program Standard 6

6. Assessment – The teacher uses multiple data elements (both formative and summative) to plan, inform, and adjust instruction and evaluate student learning.

6.2 Element – Designing Student Assessments with an Emphasis on Formative Assessment

6.2 Example of Proficient – Teacher has a well-developed strategy to use formative assessment and has designed particular approaches to be used.

During the completion of my Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA), I discovered the impact that questioning can have on student learning and achievement. Throughout my coursework at Seattle Pacific University, I learned about the importance of formative assessments and how they can be used to plan, inform, and adjust instruction to drive student learning and elevate achievement. While I knew that questioning was a valuable tool in this endeavor, it has become clear that it is the best way to truly tell the depth of students’ understanding and to measure their procedural fluency, mathematical reasoning, and conceptual development. During the math lesson sequence that I taught for my edTPA, I used small group lessons to probe students’ thinking and monitor their progress. What I discovered was that students who can easily fill out math worksheets often do not fully understand the concepts behind the procedures. While students were able to produce the right answers to math equations, they were not able to explain their reasoning or revealed that they had formed a misconception. These misconceptions might not have hindered that student’s ability to complete that particular task but left unchecked would cause knowledge gaps that would hinder future success. It is crucial that the information gained during these formative assessments is documented so that it can be used to adjust instruction and provide students with the targeted support needed. I used a monitoring sheet to record data about students’ comprehension and reasoning. The information on this monitoring sheet was used to provide scaffolding to struggling students and elevations to students who excel, as well as, provide mini-lessons to address misconceptions. As shown on the monitoring sheet, one student, in particular, developed a misconception about number bonds which was uncovered and addressed through questioning. By being asked strategic questions, the student was able to unpack the misconception without direct instruction from the teacher.

In order to gain valuable insights, I first had to prepare questions that would reveal students’ mathematical reasoning and conceptual development. Worksheets are useful in assessing students’ procedural fluency but often fail to measure much more. Questioning also allows teachers to give immediate feedback on student progress which is critical to success. Smith and Stein (2011) assert, “Good questions certainly help. They can guide students’ attention to previously unnoticed features of a problem or they can loosen up their thinking so that they can gain a new perspective on what is being asked. Good questions also force students to articulate their thinking so that it is understandable to another human being; this articulation, in and of itself, is often a catalyst for learning” (p. 62). During small group instruction at the half circle table pictured to the left, I would assess student progress starting with prompts for students to demonstrate their basic knowledge, comprehension, and application of the skills required to solve a problem. Then, students would be asked to analyze their understanding of the problem by explaining their reasoning. Next, students would be directed to synthesize and evaluate their understanding of the concept by identifying what math strategies and tools they found most helpful in solving equations. Finally, questioning was used to help students uncover their own misconceptions and confront them directly. Even though the students that I am working with are only in kindergarten, I found that they are easily able to explain their reasoning and evaluate their progress when asked the right questions. For my students, the act of explaining their mathematical process helped them to work through problems and correct their own mistakes. When I used the prepared questions, students would often come to their own revelations about math which is much more impactful than just receiving an explanation from the teacher. This practice has become a daily part of my math instruction throughout my student teaching experience. Moving forward, I would like to begin using questioning to this degree in all subject matter as it has been so effective during mathematics instruction.

Smith, M.S., & Stein, M.K. (2011). 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions. Reston, VA: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Inc.