Strategies You Can Use During Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning

Illustration showing the Smarter Balanced supports for formative assessment strategies on a computer screen.

The nature of remote learning is that there is more student autonomy—it is likely that students will participate with more independence when they are not located in the same space and/or instructional time as their teachers.

Distance learning relies on the formative assessment process for success because it helps teachers and students identify the gaps between where students are and where they need to be in order to determine next steps.

When students are engaged in remote learning, teachers need ways to identify, monitor, and support student learning at various times while in separate spaces. Using the formative assessment process, teachers and students can monitor and adjust learning together. The formative assessment process is essential for supporting effective distance learning.

The formative assessment process is used by teachers and students to provide actionable feedback to the learner, which is then used to adjust ongoing teaching and learning strategies to improve students’ attainment of curricular learning targets/goals.

The formative assessment process has four attributes:

  1. Clarify: determine what students will learn and how they will know they have learned it;
  2. Elicit: generate evidence of student learning, such as asking questions;
  3. Interpret: review evidence to determine students’ progress towards the learning goal(s); and
  4. Act: take instructional next steps to move students from where they are to where they need to be, such as re-teaching using a different mode.
Clarify: Students understand what they need to learn (the learning goals), and how they will know that they have learned them (success criteria).Interpret: Review evidence to determine students’ progress towards the learning goals and make decisions about next instructional steps.
Synchronous: Students restate the learning goal and success criteria in their own words verbally, in comments, or during a think-pair-share in a web-conference breakout room.
Asynchronous: Students restate the learning goal and success criteria on a chat board or in an online/offline journal.This is a great all-purpose alert box.
Synchronous: In-the-moment evaluation of student statements and work.
Asynchronous: Off-line review of group or individual student work by evaluating, scoring, or otherwise making sense of where students are relative to the learning goal.
Elicit: Generate evidence of student learning.Act: Steps to move students toward achieving their learning goal.
Synchronous: In-the-moment questions with students responding verbally, using polling tools, or in a chat room. Items could be from Smarter Balanced Interims or the Sample Items Website.
Asynchronous: Posted discussion questions, online quizzes, tasks, or prompts for students to complete. Work is recorded and submitted to the teacher digitally.
Synchronous: Real-time teacher feedback or peer feedback that prompts adjustments or real-time modelling to re-teach a concept or skill or progress to a new concept or skill.
Asynchronous: Off-line feedback (comments, videos, email) or follow up tools to support re-teaching a concept or skill or progressing to a new concept or skill. Assignment of additional tasks or work to support student progress.

Smarter Balanced Supports for Formative Assessment

The following strategies can facilitate the use of the formative assessment process in distance learning.

Entrance TicketSYNCHRONOUS
Notes for use:
Use a polling tool within your web-based classroom to gather real-time data regarding what students know before the beginning of a “lesson.”
Thumbs Up/Thumbs DownSYNCHRONOUS
Notes for use:
When using an online platform there are many tools that can be used to get non-verbal feedback in real time. This strategy can be used throughout online lessons to clarify learning, check for understanding, and know if your students need more support or if they are ready to move on.
Download Printable Sheet
Stars and StairsASYNCHRONOUS
Notes for use:
Descriptive feedback is essential for student academic growth. This strategy can be used by both students and teachers and is generally used at the end of a lesson when interpreting evidence of learning. A word processing tool can be used to create a Stars and Stairs form and uploaded to your virtual teaching platform. It can then be used by you and your students to identify areas of strength and areas for growth and to set goals for next steps.
Notes for use:
For synchronous learning, use a polling tool to gather real-time data regarding what students know after a “lesson.”
For asynchronous learning, have students submit their responses electronically, review, and provide them with electronic feedback.
This video describes the use of exit tickets.
Notes for use:
For synchronous learning, post a problem or figure so that all students can see it by sharing your screen. Have students state, via chats or open discussion, what they notice and wonder about the problem/figure.
For asynchronous learning, create a discussion board asking students to write what they notice and wonder about the problem/figure in the post by a certain date. You can also require/suggest students to respond to each other’s posts.