MDC Introductory Guide to Formative Assessment Workshop

The Mathematics Design Collaborative (MDC) provides instructional tools and professional support services meant to help teachers collect ongoing and immediate evidence of student learning. The instructional tools include formative assessment lessons (FALs), known as Classroom Challenges, as well as formative assessment strategies embedded within each lesson. The professional support services include course outlines and lesson guides for grades 6 through Algebra II that align the FALs to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and offer teachers strategies and guidance for implementing the FALs. The course outline includes a yearlong pacing guide indicating where specific FALs fit into the CCSS-aligned curriculum, resource links for grade-specific units, and frequent explanations of the major shifts for which CCSS is calling. The FAL guides include links to the Classroom Challenge tasks, pre- and post-assessments, and formative assessment strategies.

MDC also offers a video library that shows teachers enacting selected Classroom Challenges as well as student and teacher experiences participating in the Classroom Challenges. The videos highlight specific formative assessment strategies such as analyzing sample student work, listening to students and giving feedback, helping students act as instructional resources to one another, homogenous grouping, whole group discussion, mini-conferencing, surfacing student error, and adapting FALs to special education settings. For every video in the library, MDC offers a video guide that includes a synopsis and context for the video clip, selected excerpts of discussions from the lesson, and guiding questions.

MDC also provides a high school teacher’s MDC story that includes every stage of her experience, her victories and struggles, and how her feelings towards formative assessment and teaching mathematics grew and changed by implementing the Classroom Challenges in her classroom.

Content Comments 

The Mathematics Design Collaborative (MDC) is a well-designed formative assessment tool that Math teachers can use not only to inform their planning and instruction, but also to support their students’ thinking, discussions, reading, and writing about mathematics. The formative assessment lessons (FALs) encourage students to develop and revise new understandings through small- and whole-group collaboration, and they support teachers in their effort to provide meaningful and consistent feedback to students. However, MDC does have a couple of shortcomings. For one, MDC lacks strategies for engaging and supporting English language leaners throughout the FALs. Still, the FALs in themselves indirectly provide opportunities for English language learners to engage in discussion and develop new math vocabulary and language. Furthermore, although the FALs naturally encourage the use of many of the math practice standards, the CCSS math practice standards are not explicitly incorporated into or aligned with the FALs.