Learning results from a combination of reflecting on and making connections between prior experiences, and new experiences and content. It involves organizing and reorganizing these connections and relationships into mental models that can get more sophisticated as learners gain experiences. It is influenced by learner's motivation to learn and interests in the material to be learned.
As many have experienced in their own learning and teaching, conversation plays a key role in facilitating social interactions around learning and assisting in meaning making for ideas and concepts. Learning occurs through discourse within social interactions (Rogoff, 1998; Vygotsky, 1978). For learners, engaging in conversations can foster more generative thinking and enable them to practice dialogic skills, such as asking questions and communicating ideas in an effective manner. It can be a way for them to process information and make social connections. These thinking and dialogue skills form the basis of active, analytic, individual thought, and allows individuals to develop their ability to communicate their ideas.
It’s important to keep in mind that talking about conversation starts us thinking about other aspects of a learner’s culture that can influence learning. The culture of the learner can be the culture of a society, ethnic group, or a country and also includes the culture of the classroom, family, group of friends and the resulting activities, routines and common experiences that people in each of those communities has. Each of these cultural components can influence the ways that ideas are conceptualized, modeled, and understood.
With the aim to provide both the students and instructor with a gauge of where their level of understanding is at a current moment, formative evaluation activites enable the instructor to adjust accordingly to meet the emerging needs of the class. Do I need to re-explain that concept differently? Do I need to backtrack two steps and catch everyone up to where we are now? Do I need to change my pedagogical approach to engage this group of students?
Formative evaluations are particularly important because they allow you to make changes that affect the current students, while the end of term forms only affect future classes. In addition, formative evaluations signal your class that you are indeed interested in what and how they're learning, and in their responses to your teaching.
Some examples of Formative Evaluations:
Check student understanding in a lesson by asking them to take out a sheet of paper and take one minute to, for example, write down an explanation of a concept, solve an equation, or draw a main point from a reading.
Muddiest Point Paper
Check student understanding in a lesson by asking them to take out a sheet of paper and take one minute to write down a single question about, or the most confusing aspect of, the topic of/for the day.
After working through a topic, ask students to explain the content to a lay audience in their own words.
In order to conduct a mid-semester evaluation, you might want to use the generic mid-semester evaluation, or modify it in any way; there may be particular additional questions you would like to ask, for instance. If you do use some form of mid-term evaluation, we encourage you to discuss the results with your class, explaining for instance, why you can't cut down on some topic, or why, based on the suggestions of the class, you will add a discussion of a particular topic.