Posted by Debbie Weissmann
"What is measured is what is improved."  Peter Drucker
Our January Chapter Meeting topic was 'Formative Assessments.' We talked about the ways we can provide formative feedback to our students, with particular attention to how we can provide meaningful feedback when we are all online due to Covid-19.
We began considering how we can reach our students during this time when we are all online. Some of us have tried to meet with students in their online classroom before and after class and others meet with students in break-out room during class. Office hours were another opportunity to meet with students, but fewer students attended this third space. One teacher mentioned the positive result of calling students on the phone. The students were generally grateful to see the teacher's effort and genuine care.
 
We then explored the value of the AP CSA for ungraded progress checks and graded formative assessment. We agreed there was a burden to grading the Free Response Questions. One solution to lighten this burden was to have the students grade each other. Even if the peer to peer feedback wasn't as deep as a teacher would provide, it was still an activity of value for both the reviewers and reviewees.
 
We talked about using materials that supported the AP CSA curriculum, such as CS Awesome, our own lab assignments, worksheets, and other materials from CS Unplugged. Others of us are using online platforms such as Scratch, GoogleCode CS, and CodeHS to prep students for the AP CSA exam.
 
The question of cheating came up, as a lot of the answers to popular review courses have been posted online. While cheating is not a concern with our youngest students, with high school students some of us have turned to  quizlet, quick check-ins, flipgrid and even changing variable names to discover if students were pulling answers from the web. Others of us said we don't use the paradigm of 'cheating / not cheating.' Instead they promote teamwork, and see the value of a student's skill in finding helpful resources. It was noted that in industry, people reuse each other's code all the time. Even better, have students cite where they got it from. This is a great moment for teaching digital citizenship skills. In Scratch, they promote a remix culture. Take it , cite it, and add something to the provenance tree to make it yours. Also, you usually have debug borrowed code, a collateral skill to promote which requires reading and understanding someone else's code.
 
Moving away from a formative assessment discussion, we talked about how to promote more teamwork. Some of us had discovered that just putting students in break out rooms didn't promote teamwork. Others queried their students for natural partnership and student input before setting up collaborations. Another ideas was to pre-partner in the pseudo code stage, before putting people together for the coding part of the activity. And some found that once students were in a partnership that worked, they wanted to continue working with that partner. 
 
We came back to thinking about formative assessments, looking for new ideas. We agreed that formative projects, exams, pseudo coding, engineering notebooks, commenting code, peer reviewing, and competitive teams were all ways to implement formative assessments. It was noted that if we ask students to synthesize what they know, it makes it more difficult to cheat.
 
And it was noted that much of the learning from formative assessments occurs after the test or graded project. It's in the discussion of knowledge gaps, or what didn't work, or to offer students the opportunity to do it again. Making one moment of formative assessment into one piece of data for a longitudinal assessment of progress.