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31 October 2014

Making exit tickets work

I've been playing around again at using exit tickets with  my Year 9 classes with the aim of assessing their progress towards the objectives of the lesson.  I've used exit tickets with students before and have already seen their value in engaging students in a conversation about their own learning.  In my experience, students are very keen to give feedback on how they found the lesson and whether they achieved the objectives or not.  And yet I felt I hadn't quite managed to get them right.  I was suspicious of the quality of feedback I was getting, and whether it really did offer me an accurate guide as to the progress of my learners.  With a few tweaks to address these issues, this time around, they've been working particularly well, so I'm going to share what I've learned.

Start with sharp learning objectives for students
First of all, the success or failure of the exit tickets themselves is directly linked to quality of the learning objectives underpinning the lesson.  In order for exit tickets to be a meaningful way of assessing how far students have come by the end of the lesson, lesson objectives must be sharply defined.  Ideally, the objectives should be focused on precise things which students should be able 'to do' by the end of the lesson, rather than vague objectives about what students might be learning about.  My experience has shown that three sharp objectives building in complexity tends to work well.  I normally spend a minute looking at the objectives at the start of the lesson with students.  Importantly, the responses required by the exit tickets are sharply tied to the specific objectives of the lesson.  In other words, I know exactly what I'm assessing before I teach the lesson.

When introducing these lesson objectives, students have their exit tickets in front of them.  This brings me to the second thing I've learned about using exit tickets effectively.  My early attempts simply asked students to assess for themselves whether they had met each objective, ticking YES or NO to each one.  However, as I stood poised to receive twenty-eight exit tickets as students left the lesson, I discovered that there was a tendency for students to simply tick YES to all objectives.  Either progress in my lessons was faultless (unlikely) or there was some other explanation.  It seemed that students were ticking YES either because they were keen to please me with the progress they were making, or that they were not always able to assess their own progress accurately.  So while self-assessment has an important role to play, experience has also shown me that exit tickets need to use a blend of self-assessment and teacher assessment.
Use both self- and teacher-assessment.

This led me to revamp my exit tickets to their current design.  The responses on the tickets feature a mixture of self- and teacher assessment, plus a mixture of multiple-choice and open responses.  In the example here, students are required firstly to assess themselves on their content knowledge.  Secondly, through use of a multiple-choice question, I am able to assess their content knowledge and understanding.  Thirdly and finally, students are required to apply their knowledge and understanding to provide a more open response to solve an unfamiliar issue or problem, thus enabling me to identify exactly who has and who has not achieved the most challenging aspects of the lesson.  These are the kind of responses which students cannot simply 'fake' in the hope of pleasing me.

Apply knowledge to solve a problem.

As students leave the room, I take their exit tickets from them, scanning each of them in a few seconds.  By the time the classroom is empty, I know exactly what proportion of the class achieved the learning objectives.  I know exactly which specific students struggled.  This provides me with a clear direction for planning my next lesson with the group.

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