Building Compelling and Engaging Assessments and Formative Instruction


When my whole career has been focused on building assessments that are so compelling and engaging that the least willing and the least able student will be able to show you what they know and can do before they even realize they’re taking a test. And the answer to that is DreamBox because the students, the children don’t know that they’re even being directed in a different way. The embedded adaptive nature of the curriculum with the embedded assessments make it just play. And the students are learning while they’re playing and that’s the ideal situation. It takes away the nervousness that kids are engaged in a work.

You know Phil Schlechty writes about engagement and his, all his books talks about how important it is that students are engaged in what they’re doing, that they’re rigorous but not hard, that they’re meaningful, that they’re authentic. And when students are having fun doing something, the byproduct is learning. If they’re sitting down to take a test, most test, there is a fear factor even if the children aren’t afraid, the teachers are. So, the teachers convey that concerns to this and seriousness to the students. So, being able to learn and be assessed and then be directed in a different learning path which is what DreamBox does makes it just a fantastic tool to augment teachers’ time and skills in the classroom. You know, people have taken that in different directions.

Benjamin Bloom at the University of Chicago took it in the mastery learning where he outlines stair-steps and you needed to one step and be assessed formatively. No judgments were made and then you would move to the next step. That was his idea. Then there were a Grant Wiggins, Rich Stiggins. These are all big names even today in that notion of formative instructional practice which is the new framing of that concept. And the whole idea is if we capture evidence about what students are learning as they’re making a journey from September to May, if we give them feedback soon, then they don’t go often the wrong path for a long time and make recovery very difficult. So, it’s the kind of coaching you get from your personal trainer. You know, you go once a week, and you get guidance every week, and you can lift the right way, and you can, you know, you can do the right exercises, you don’t get very far off track. That’s the power of formative instructional practice and DreamBox has that.

Now, the confusion in the industry today is between what is formative assessment versus what is formative instructional practice. Formative assessment is really about measuring and it tends to convey meanings of classroom test and, you know, many of the classroom tests are in the market today. Formative instructional practice really is more aligned to Dylan William where he would say “There’s a lot of evidence that is displayed by students in the way learn.” And it’s not just taking a test but the decisions they make, the actions they take, and when the teachers are paying attention to that, they can guide correct reinforcement in the right direction. DreamBox does that all within its technology. So, the students are diverted or refocused in a different direction based on their strengths and weaknesses. It’s hidden from the students. They never feel anything negative. They just keep going down the path that’s going to maximize their learning.

Margie Jorgensen
Education Consultant
DreamBox Learning