3 Effortless Ways to Know if They Get It

I remember sitting in an accreditation meeting nine years ago when a visiting teacher asked our group about formative assessment. He wasn’t talking about quizzes, tests and projects, but daily, meaningful engagements with students, checking in with them to measure incremental understanding.  Our group was flummoxed. We had been talking about assessments for months, dutifully preparing a report, and yet we had never asked ourselves “What is formative assessment?”  Essentially, formative assessment boils down to measuring if they get it. Later, I found out that formative assessment is among the most effective strategies for improving learning.  


Confronted with the fact that I wasn’t doing it well, I knew that I needed a system for helping me assess understanding while learning was taking place, and I was looking for something more than a clicker system that measures fixed answers. I needed to measure thinking itself, so I created Oncore, and here are three ways that any teacher can use Oncore to level-up formative assessment.


  1. Intermittent “Pit-Stops”

The racing metaphor is foreign to me, but the idea of a pit-stop describes the bread and butter of what Oncore accomplishes. At any time in the instructional process I can do a quick five minute formative assessment. The process: Give a clear question related to our work, give students an opportunity to share what they think with a partner, and then let Oncore take over.

I can attach a standard to this participation pit-stop.

Standard selection through Oncore's CCSS and NGSS standards library.
Standard selection through Oncore’s CCSS and NGSS standards library.

Oncore’s student selector button will call on a student who has had fewer than average interactions with me.

Oncore's Student Interface shows engagements and overall performance levels.
Oncore’s Classroom Interface allows teachers to choose students and to see a performance snapshot.

I can evaluate that student’s work on Oncore’s Color Scale.

Teachers can easily do formative assessment via Oncore's color scale.
Teachers can easily do formative assessment via Oncore’s color scale.

If I call on three or four students, I can get a statistically significant read on whether or not I can move on in my instruction or our activity.

This process is virtually effortless. I’m merely collecting data and using it to modify instruction. That’s formative assessment 101


  1. Replacing “The Stamp”

The stamp is a remarkable tool in many ways: At best it measures quality of student work, and at worst it measures completion of work (and that is not without value). But what the stamp does not do is measure mastery of standards, and it does not give a teacher a focus for evaluating work. With Oncore, I’ve improved upon the stamp.

Teachers can layer assignments over the class seating chart.

Oncore’s assessment feature turns the seating chart into a standard’s mastery learning grade-book.

To do this create an assignment, link a standard, and then assess student work instead of stamping the work.  

Teachers can easily assess student work in a timely, relevant manner.
Teachers can easily assess student work in a timely, relevant manner.

I’ve learned through the process of assessing using Oncore that I can leverage the power of warm-up time, peer feedback time, group work time, and independent practice time to give better feedback in class.

In this way, I’m able to give specific, criteria-based feedback to each student. Also, assessing in this way encourages me to clarify expectations for students in advance, so that I’m more focused when I grade their homework or classwork using Oncore.

This feature hits the sweet spot of reducing paper load and increasing the effectiveness of my feedback, giving me more time to work on planning lessons or just more time on the weekends with my family (something no teacher should be ashamed of).

As an added bonus, this data also migrates into Oncore’s standards reports, and factors in to a student’s overall Oncore profile.


  1. Measuring “Group-Think”

Oncore also does for groups what it does for individuals or assignments. Oncore’s innovative group feature already allows a teacher to effortlessly create mixed or same level groups, but it also allows them to attach a standard to that group’s work, and to assess the group as a whole or as individuals.

This accomplishes two things. It creates the necessary group dynamic of accountability. Students often know that I can call on any student in the group to assess their understanding of the task at hand. Also, it helps the group clarify their own goals for learning, again based on my instruction and explanation of the task.

Teachers can assess student groups too, easily and in an organized manner.

In the last few years, I’ve logged thousands of performance-based interactions which have all helped me clarify my expectations, encouraged students set meaningful goals, and have made my class feedback rich. Oncore has helped me level-up my assessment game. 

To download Oncore for free on your iPad visit the App Store.



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