UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Informal Assessment in the Math Classroom

In last week’s post, I described “Topic Reflections,” a self-assessment tool we designed for this year to help students engage in self-reflection.  While that post focused on the power of self-reflection for students, this week’s post looks at the benefits we are experiencing from the teacher side with a combination of of Topic Reflections and formative (graded) Skill Assessments.

A History of Skill Assessments

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 7.24.57 AMWhen our district first adopted the Eureka Math curriculum, my colleague Irene Witt and I were concerned that Eureka did not provide assessment opportunities prior to the summative “Module Assessments” at the mid-way and end points in a multi-week Module.  We felt strongly that we would be remiss in waiting until a few weeks into a Module to figure out if the students were understanding and mastering the material.  Therefore, we wrote a series of formative assessments we called “Skill Assessments,” designed to assess key skills necessary to support understanding of the big concepts in the Module.

We went a little overboard with the Skill Assessments.

Since the Skill Assessments were the only way we could get information about our students’ progress prior to the big Module Assessments, we ended up writing multiple Skill Assessments in each half of a Module, sometimes resulting in a formative assessment every day.

Oops!  If I weren’t already planning a blog about the ways I have failed at Universal Design for Learning (UDL), I would have to use that for my title for this blog!

What changed?

We made two major changes this summer as we revised our practice:  one, developing Topic Reflections and, two, allowing retakes.  As we reflect on and revise our practice in-the-moment this year, we are finding that the combination of Topic Reflections and Skill Assessments is very powerful.

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The Topic Reflections allow us to get information from the students about their current understanding of/mastery of a topic prior to even the informal Skill Assessments.  Because Topic Reflections are not graded, students experience less anxiety (Checkpoint 7.3 Minimize threats and distractions).  Using the Topic Reflections allows me to provide students with mastery oriented feedback (Checkpoint 8.4) before they are in a graded assessment situation.  And, of course, throughout the process, we are enhancing the students’ capacity for monitoring their own progress (Checkpoint 6.4)!

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Now, when students take a Skill Assessment, it’s not the first time I have gathered data about their understanding of the material, nor is it the first time I am giving them feedback on their progress thus far.  This has resulted in significantly better results on the Skill Assessments, indicating that students are making progress towards mastering the content.


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I am including two screenshots from student work that impressed me with the quality and accuracy of the examples and the language students used to reflect on their understanding of proportionality in tables, graphs, and equations.


As always, my thanks to my colleague, Irene Witt, for being the better half of my brain.



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