How Exit Tickets can Transform your Teaching (if used correctly)
In this post, I discuss how you can design and categorize your exit slips to improve your formative assessment strategy and maximize student learning.
Can you imagine teaching ionic bonding and then administering an assessment only to realize your students had no idea what an ion was?
Maybe you don't teach chemistry or science but I'm sure at one point or another you have had a similar experience where students do not understand a core idea and are totally lost during a test.
Often times we as teachers rely heavily on tests at the end of a topic to check for student understanding.
Like many teachers I know, I believed that asking a few questions to the class (as a whole) and giving some homework, and reviewing that homework the next day was enough. But a few terrible end-of-term scores later, I realized that I was doing something wrong!
Yes, I was providing feedback, and by feedback, I mean letting students know what they got wrong on a test or assignment and asking them to “go over it”, or providing a few additional worksheets for practice. But by the time I noticed that they just didn't get "it," it was too late. We had moved on and my students had already mentally tapped out. In this post, I discuss how the use of Exit Tickets or Exit slips can transform your formative assessment strategy and improve your teaching.
Feedback alone is Not Enough!
Hattie and Timperley (2007) define the purpose of feedback as a way of:
“reducing the discrepancies between current understandings/performance and the desired goal” (p.86).
Not only should our formative assessments tell us whether or not students have met the learning goal, they should also provide information on what is needed for students to meet that goal.
According to Hattie & Timperley, for effective classroom assessments teachers and students should be able to answer these three questions:
Where am I going?
How am I doing
Where am I going next?
Therefore, not only should your formative assessment reveal to students how well /poorly they performed, they should also be able to identify:
whether or not they met the learning goal of the assignment
the parts of the assignment that were done well
where they missed the mark
suggestions for improvement and,
how they can take their learning to the next level.
Why are Exit Slips (One) of the best Strategies for formative assessment?
Exit slips (which I'm sure you already know, but if you don't…) are used to check for students understanding at the end of a lesson or class period, they can also be used mid-way through a lesson, or even at the beginning (bell ringers), but the idea remains the same.
1. The main advantage of an exit slip is that you gain immediate insight into student understanding, not the day after, the week after, or after the formal assessment.
2. They provide a non-threatening way for students to communicate with you about their struggles and strengths. They also provide insight into how they are thinking about new information.
3. They Allow you to plan accordingly for the next class session differentiating for the abilities and understanding of different students.
The FOUR exit slip categories:
Making them Work for you and your classroom needs
Planning is key when it comes to a solid formative assessment strategy first you need to ask yourself:
What do I want to know?
Let’s just say you have been teaching the periodic table, but you used the Jigsaw Strategy (see previous blog post) you might want to know:
Did students even enjoy this strategy, to begin with i.e. were they able to work well in their groups?
Was it effective at helping them understand the content or were they even more confused?
The exit slip you would use in this case would be different from what would be used if, for example, you wanted to know whether students are able to :
Compare the similarities and differences between the elements in group I and group II of the periodic table.
And different still if you wanted to know exactly which areas of the content students understood.
During my planning, I categorize my Exit Slips into FOUR categories based on suggestions by Fisher & Frey 2004 as well as my own research.
Other teachers may choose to classify their Exit slips differently, also, some exit slip prompts may fall under more than one category.
1. Questions to determine students’ understanding of the content
These exit slips are the most common ones I've seen. These contain one or two questions that assess students’ understanding of the content of the lesson.
These exit slips should meet the following criteria:
They should encompass the entire lesson and should align with the lesson goal. i.e., they should only assess what was taught during that lesson.
The questions should encompass the entire lesson i.e. should check for understanding of the overall goal of the lesson (proper lesson planning is key here).
Students should be able to complete the question in 5 minutes or less.
Can be used to promote critical thinking such as questions that fall higher on Bloom’s taxonomy ( Analyze, evaluate, create)
Should also include a rating scale to determine students’ perceptions of their understanding.
Examples of activities to determine student understanding:
Use a Venn Diagram for comparing and contrasting two concepts such as animal cell vs plant cell
Students can be asked to perform a quick calculation that encompasses the entire lesson content.
2. Prompts that encourage Student Reflection
Reflection is critical to the learning process. When learners are prompted to reflect on the lesson and the activities they move away from the how and begin to explore the way, which drives them toward figuring out “ Where am I going next?” (Hattie and Timperley,2007).
Using Exit slips to encourage student reflection ensures that students:
Are able to connect concepts to ensure that the content isn’t decontextualized,
Focus on their strengths and identify their weaknesses which provides them with the tools for directing their own learning.
Examples of prompts that encourage student reflection:
Apply what you learned today to a new situation
How can you apply what you learned today to your everyday life?
3. Prompts that evaluate the effectiveness of instruction
This type of slip should be used when you’re trying out a teaching strategy such as group work etc., and also to determine whether or not students understood the lesson, what aspect of the lesson was confusing to them, and whether or not the activity met its intended purpose.
Not only do these help students identify their areas of difficulty, but they also inform your own teaching so you may see what works and what doesn’t and for which students.
The data collected with these Exit slips can also aid in differentiation.
Examples of prompts
Many of these prompts can fall under the reflection category.
I would like to learn more about______.
What part of the activity today did you enjoy? Which parts did you not enjoy?
4. Prompts for Retrieval
Retrieval practice is not a formative assessment strategy per se, it is more of a learning strategy but I included it as a category because of its value.
Retrieval Practice is a strategy whereby we focus on getting information out of students' heads (retrieval) instead of getting information in (encoding).
According to years of cognitive science, research retrieval leads to more long-term learning and also improves students’ understanding of their own learning process.
I’m not going to go into too much detail on retrieval practice in this post, but you can learn lots more about it here.
Examples of prompts:
Write down everything you remember from the lesson
Write down all the keywords from the lesson
Although Retrieval practice can be used at the end of a lesson, which is absolutely fine, I personally use them at the beginning of class just to shake up my student's brains and get them primed and ready for learning.
I would use retrieval at the beginning of class and an exit slip from one of the other three categories at the end.
Do I have to grade all of that?
Okay, so you have decided to use exit slips in your classroom, and now you have an entire pile of paper in front of you and you just do not have the time to go through all of it!
You absolutely do not have to grade the exit slips!
Exit slips should be a low-stakes activity that you use to gain insight, and to encourage learning and critical thinking. It is not about students having the “right” answer but whether or not students understand how to get to the answer and how to learn meaningfully and to help you get them to that point.
If you do decide to mark some of the exit slips such as those that assess students understanding of the content, they should be quick and easy to mark as there is only so much you can fit on a half-sized slip of paper (anything larger than that is a worksheet in my humble opinion).
Here are a few things you can do with students’ exit tickets:
Quickly skim through them to see what students are saying about the lesson, keep a tally and jot down some notes especially if you notice a pattern.
If you included a rating on your slip, sort the slips based on the rating. For example, all students who gave the lesson a high rating in one pile, mid-range in one pile, and a low rating in another pile.
Return the slips to students the next day and have them assess each other’s work.
Go over the answers on the board and have students assess their own work so they can compare their answers to yours that way they can see for themselves where they went wrong.
Have students stick their exit tickets in an assigned notebook or binder so they can monitor their progress over time, you can also go through these yourself to monitor how they have progressed.
Based on the collective data from your Exit tickets during your next session you may need to :
Provide additional information and instruction to the entire class
Have one-to-one sessions with specific students so that you can determine the source of their misunderstandings and provide additional support
Place students in small groups to work on problems collaboratively
Move on to the next topic if the data shows that most students have a good grasp of the content (providing additional support to the few students who do not get it instead of holding the entire class back).
Are you ready to create exit tickets and incorporate this highly effective formative assessment strategy in your classes??
I've created a variety pack of exit slips that fall under each category mentioned here. All slips are editable and can be used for any subject and any grade level. You can learn more about them here.
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Fisher, D., and Frey, N. (2004). Improving Adolescent Literacy: Strategies at Work. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall
Hattie, J. and Timperley, H. (2007). The Power of Feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77 (1), 81–112. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/003465430298487