Using PearDeck in a proficiency-based environment

Looking at tech tools for formative assessment

Chrome apps and extensions for differentiationIn a proficiency-based learning environment, frequent, flexible, and transparent assessments become cornerstones of the practice. The importance of formative assessment can’t be understated, and these tech tools make it so much easier.

I often hear from busy teachers they don’t have time to create the multiple assessments and learning opportunities for multiple re-dos a proficiency system demands of them.

What’s Pear Deck?

One tool I recommend trying when pressed for time, because of its ease of use, and its effectiveness in providing actionable formative feedback of current performance is PearDeck.

As a lover of Nearpod, I had heard of PearDeck but didn’t give it a try until I read this blogpost about using PearDeck for exit tickets.

I hadn’t realized until then the ease with which formative assessment activities can be added directly into Google Slides. This way you can check for understanding and unveil misconceptions. Even better, you can engage students in understanding where they are in relation to an established target.


From the Pear Deck Orchard — a collection of exemplar decks available for you to steal copy and edit for your own purposes, I found this Deck on Formative Assessment and Metacognition.

tech tools for formative assessment

The goal of this deck is to model the types of assessment questions that get students to become aware of their own thinking and learning processes.

How to get hold of PearDeck

You can view the example slides from the link above. To view examples of live decks built in Google Slides, you will need to have enabled the PearDeck add-on, and then open the slide show using the add-on.


tech tools for formative assessment


What does PearDeck look like in action?

At Leland & Gray Union & Middle High School, in Townshend VT, teachers used PearDeck to self-assess on teaming. An activity commonly done with a paper survey and group discussion was transformed with Pear Deck. the group facilitator reported:

It was GREAT! They answered the questions (taken from the Teachers’ Teaming Handbook) at their own pace. Then I shared the results (which were anonymous) and we were able to discuss the results and ideas for growth.  It ended with a slide where they could type appreciations, which was a perfect way to start our work together today.

The immediacy of the feedback, aggregated and displayed, allowed for rich discussion and set the tone for a culture of sharing.

tech tools for formative assessment


Michele Farrar, a 9th grade Language Arts teacher from Green Mountain Union High School, created this Vocabulary study deck. Take a look at how engaging vocabulary study can be when it becomes a collective process. Learning from and with each other, students ‘test’ their current knowledge and get immediate feedback to help them progress.

As Shubilla and Sturgis argue in The Learning Edge,Supporting Student Success in a Competency-Based Learning Environment:

Adequate, timely, and authentic support can be the difference between students enthusiastically working through a learning challenge or panicking and turning inward because they feel ashamed, misunderstood, angry, powerless, and stuck on the ledge of failure.

Support should strengthen access, voice, and agency, not take it away…learning-edge cultures create a hunger for, rather than a dread of, assessment and feedback.

For more examples to inspire you, check out this collection of Super Teachers Using Pear Deck.

How do I create my own?

I found this short video tutorial to be useful when creating my first deck:

Next steps

Help learners move forward, and reinforce the notion of learning as progressing toward a target with formative assessment. Or as Peter DeWitt puts it:

Formative assessment, through its unfortunate mislabeling, has sometimes been misunderstood to be continuous summative action or something a teacher does to students to get information. Formative assessment is, in fact, a number of elements which enable rather than measure progress, and result in students becoming assessment literate.

Challenge yourself to toward your own learning edge when it comes to bumping up your formative assessment practices with Pear Deck and other formative assessment tools

Which tech tools do you use for formative assessment?

Susan Hennessey

Susan Hennessey is a reformed librarian and current professional development coordinator with a particular interest in digital credentials and scavenger hunts. She's addicted to flavored almonds, salty, crunchy snacks, and Google Hangouts.

What do you think?