How Do You Identify Gaps in Learning?

In an effort to regain momentum and support our students in closing learning gaps, we must first understand what are learning gaps. The go-to tool for schools around the world is ostensibly the standardized assessment. But while such assessments provide a global view of the overall academic achievement, the data they provide are too general to influence the work of the classroom practitioners.

Formative assessment data, if gleaned from the outcomes of specific learning targets, can provide teachers with real-time information on their students’ proficiencies and challenges during the lesson. Because the data collection occurs in real time, teachers are able to clarify misconceptions or apply interventions on the spot. This prevents the phenomenon of students repeatedly practicing a mistake or internalizing a misconception. Teachers are able to glean their students’ progress toward mastery and inform the next steps of the lesson as they teach.

Here are some differences between formative and summative assessment:

  • Summative assessment occurs after the lesson is completed. Formative assessment occurs during the lesson.
  • Summative assessments provide the % proficiency on a student’s mastery of each standard. Formative assessment identifies the specific skills and concepts impeding the mastery of each standard.
  • Summative assessments answer the question, “Did they learn it?”. Formative assessment answers the question, “Are they with me, so far?” And if not, “Which skill is tripping them up?”.

Work toward closing the learning gaps is sure to be a challenging venture, and formative assessment is the best tool for effectively navigating the journey. To learn more see Closing the Learning gaps in Reading and Closing the Learning Gaps in English Language Arts. See also, Closing Learning  Gaps With Our Lowest Performing Students.

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About Jackie Hardiesty

Jackie is a teaching and learning consultant and founder of Edify Consulting. She is a former Director of STEM Integration, Principal and former teacher.