Enhancing formative assessments through video creation

Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad News & Features

Formative assessments are intended to help students grow in their learning by providing evidence of their proficiency with particular content standards or skills by use of specific feedback. Traditionally, formative assessments come in the form of quizzes, homework, writing prompts, performance tasks, etc.

Although these forms of assessment may provide some evidence of where a student is in relation to a learning target, one would hardly argue that they are exciting or motivating for most students. Every educator knows that lack of engagement has a detrimental effect on student performance.

But what if assessment could be fun and engaging for students? What if it didn’t feel like ‘testing’ at all?

Video creation not only serves as an instructional support and learning experience, but as a powerful and effective formative assessment tool. Video creation overcomes several limitations of traditional assessment. Consider the following reasons:

  • Video creation opens the door to organically embracing the revision process without students feeling the drudgery of taking a test.
  • Students are motivated to revise their work within a video creation project because the results are instantly viewable and encourage further refinement.
  • There is an element of gratification that makes the video creation process more welcoming, especially when juxtaposed with a paper/pencil quiz or test.
  • Video creation gives students an outlet for creativity, the output of which the student can feel both proud and invested.

Let’s consider video creation in the context of a content standard. Example:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.4

Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

In the following scenario, a group of students chose to research, and in turn engage in critical thinking and creativity, as well as take action on elephant poaching in Africa. Students have a variety of approaches at their disposal through which to demonstrate learning. Options can be as simple as written summaries, but teachers would prefer to encourage students to take more complex, multi-dimensional, and collaborative routes, which can include creating videos.

Whichever option is taken, students will need to provide formative feedback that is aligned to the learning goal. The first step toward enabling students to guide and track their own progress on the way to a learning goal is through a well-defined rubric.

Goal Approaching Meets Expectations Above and Beyond
Criteria #1: Developing a powerful cohesive message through the synthesis of multiple sources and engaging in metacognitive processes. You have combined a few ideas and some of your own to develop a message that resonates with some. There are some gaps in your story that keep the audience from fully grasping what you’re trying to communicate. Your thinking was visibly articulated through application, but not quite reconstructing and synthesizing the concepts into a unified message. You have broken apart multiple ideas and pieces of evidence from your interviews and a variety of research sources to reconstruct and develop a powerful message that demonstrates thoughtful insight on your topic. Your central message causes the reader to think, “I’ve never thought of that before” and to want to explore your ideas further. Your thinking was visibly articulated through application and synthesis. You have broken apart multiple ideas and pieces of evidence from your interviews and a variety of research sources to reconstruct and develop a powerful message that demonstrates thoughtful insight on your topic. Additionally, your synthesis includes powerful digital media that captures the emotions of your audience and clearly communicates a compelling message that conveys the significance of why it’s important today. You have inspired your audience to act. Your thinking was visibly articulated through application, synthesis, debate, and evaluation.
Criteria #2: Historical Context and Applied Relevancy You provide an accurate, thorough and relevant historical context for your interviews. There were no primary sources cited in your research. Some of the examples provided don’t clearly connect to your central message and there are only loose connections to today’s relevancy. You provide an accurate, thorough and relevant historical context for your interviews, including at least one primary source from research. You include specific examples and evidence to illustrate your points. You clearly make connections from the past to today. You provide an accurate, thorough and relevant historical context for your interviews, including at least one primary source from research. You include specific examples and evidence to illustrate your points. You clearly make connections from the past to today. Additionally, you make predictions about future impacts and scenarios given current data and statistical analysis. You also integrate human behavior and psychology into your discussion of the historical context to give your story more credence and strength.

Now let’s consider a potential outcome of this project:

Teams of students research several topics including the impact of African elephant poaching on local communities, the international ban on ivory trade, and the history of ivory and its uses. Building on that research:

  • Students propose novel solutions to prevent poaching.
  • Students use Google Hangouts to chat with other students in Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa.
  • Students work with the World Wildlife Fund and use WeVideo to create a documentary video through which they share their research and the content of their conversations with students in African countries.
  • The video contains clips shared by local student eyewitnesses living in the communities that are impacted by elephant poaching.
  • To raise awareness, they include cinematic elements and then post the final video project to YouTube.

Driven by the feedback provided within the rubric, this formative assessment closely connects to the standard (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.4). The assessment is designed to challenge students to think with complexity as they must both research to understand the problem and then evaluate solutions to the matter. They must analyze multiple sources of data from research and from locals. They then create a deliverable using an open-ended and iterative process, in this case, video creation, that involves multiple steps. The multiple steps involved in creating the video affords the teacher a window into the progression of student thinking, which makes it easier to address misconceptions and presents new learning opportunities.

As a formative assessment, video creation illuminates the thinking and learning process, provides opportunities to improve their processes and the product, and reveals misconceptions along the way. Delivering formative assessment through creativity provides students a motivating environment that supports deeper thinking while providing teachers with important data that can be used to inspire subsequent instruction. Not only can reviewing student videos inform and guide the teacher’s next steps, it can help students see for themselves how their own ideas integrate, compare and contrast with those of their peers. They are able to see how other students may or may not share the same view or level of thinking. The more comfortable students are in sharing those ideas, the more visible they will make their thinking.