Making the Most of Your LMS-Part III: Formative Assessment

For the last couple of weeks I have been talking to you about how to make the most of your LMS. In Part 1, I showed you the importance of wayfinding when creating your classroom sites. In Part 2, I explained that no student will actually use your pages, unless you give them places to collaborate and make the pages their own. There is still one more way you can get your students to log on and engage with each other and your classroom site: formative assessment.

Formative assessment is many things. It might be a quiz mid-unit to check for understanding. It might be a poll in mid-lesson. It might be a sticky note exit ticket. It might be a kid holding up a mini-whiteboard with a response written on it. Formative assessment is any way you gather feedback from students on their current understanding.

Formative assessment: three tools, multiple applications

There are so many apps, add-ons, and bits of software a teacher can use to gain this kind of feedback. But why not keep it all in one place, in your LMS, where you and your students can go back and refer to the responses if needed?

As I said in my previous posts, I use Haiku Learning as my LMS. Using a platform like Haiku Learning for formative assessment keeps kids coming back to the classroom site. Specifically, I discuss below how discussion boards, polls, and quizzes give students an opportunity to collaborate with you as you use their feedback to guide your lesson planning.

Discussion boards

Asynchronous discussions can be used in all kinds of ways with your students. And the great thing about these discussions is that students can go back and see what they wrote and see your feedback.

Use discussion boards as an anticipatory set. Ask a question to see what the students already know before getting started. Ask an overarching question that gets kids involved in the big topic before you start the unit. Ask your students to sum up the big idea learned from their homework last night to engage them in the current day’s topic.

Use discussion boards as an exit ticket. Sticky notes and mini-white boards work great for this, but kids don’t have any record later of what they wrote. And kids don’t typically get any personal feedback from these from the teacher. Why not use the discussion board at the end of the lesson to gauge their take-aways or current impressions of the topic? Write a few words in response to each student to let them know if they are on the right track, or need to go back and revisit something.

screenshot of student discussion in Haiku LearningShown here in Haiku Learning, discussions foster more open-ended responses from students to check their understanding.


Polls are great when you are looking for a specific response. They are not made for open-ended discussions. These are great for quick checks of understanding. But I have also used polls with great success in having students evaluating the lesson or unit. They can give you feedback on pacing, types of activities they find useful, and what they want to spend more time on.

page filled with poll results in Haiku LearningPolls can be embedded right into your Haiku Learning class.


The most traditional sort of formative assessment is a quiz. Not meant to be a full on test, quizzes can give you more specific data on how you students are currently understanding a unit. And online quizzes are awesome because they virtually grade themselves. What is also great about most online quizzes is that you can see classwide data per question, and you can even write comments on student papers.

Create quizzes that kids can use to check their own understanding. These allow students to take a “practice” quiz and then keep retaking it until they feel comfortable with the material. This also gives them an idea of what content to study and what content they have already mastered.

Create quizzes that are checklists to be filled in at the project’s completion. Ask questions like: Did you do this? Did you do that? What grade do you think you should get based on the rubric? Giving the students an opportunity to reflect on their learning is sometimes a better assessment than the assessment itself.

assessment analytics in Haiku Learning

A screenshot of some of the analytics you get from Haiku Learning’s assessment tool.

How do you use your LMS for formative assessment?  What are your favorite high-tech or low-tech methods to gauge your students’ understanding?

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