These days, exit tickets are a fairly common feedback tool.
If you’re unsure as to how they work, at the end of each lesson, teachers ask the pupils a question or two that will demonstrate understanding, the pupils will write down their answers on a piece of paper and then hand them to the teacher on their way out. You can then clearly see who has understood the concept you’ve been teaching, and who hasn’t.
Personally, I’m not a fan. I don’t think exit tickets should be part of your classroom routine and I think there are much better alternatives out there.
Why don’t I like them? There are three reasons.
The first – and main – reason is the workload it takes to create, administer and evaluate them. They can be thrown together quite quickly, but for any meaningful insight, questions need to be very carefully crafted. Producing these exit tickets for each lesson you teach in a week, as well as taking the time to review student answers, really adds up.
I’d also argue that they can quickly become redundant, especially when pre-prepared. If students make quicker progress in a lesson than anticipated, or, conversely, less progress than anticipated, the questions included can be out of kilter with what you actually want to know.
And finally, I simply don’t think exit tickets are the most effective teaching and learning strategy. In any lesson, questioning has a dual aim: for the teacher to know what students have understood and for students to know if they understand the newly taught content.
An exit ticket provides the former, but knowing this when students are leaving the lesson is too late. There needs to be time for re-teaching, alternative modelling, additional questioning and student feedback within the lesson itself.
This approach also doesn’t provide the students with any insight into their own understanding. Sometimes, students will self- or peer-mark their exit ticket questions, but often there isn’t time for teacher feedback. Therefore, if a student leaves a lesson with a low score, they’ll leave knowing they haven’t mastered the content, but without knowing why.
So, what are the alternatives?
Mini whiteboards provide live feedback to teachers about student understanding; and to students about their own understanding. A teacher can instantly respond to misconceptions and mistakes, giving students the feedback they need to know on why they’ve gone wrong and what they need to do to improve. Follow-up questions can easily be added, depending on what the answers to the first questions were.
Mini whiteboards can also be used at any point in the lesson and there’s plenty of flexibility to them. Teachers can provide written or verbal questions, which either require short answers written down, or multi-choice options where students note down the correct option. Using mini whiteboards also ensures 100 per cent class participation, rather than the 20 per cent or so that cold calling or hands-up questions allow.
Much like the exit ticket allows you to evaluate student knowledge of content taught in a lesson, a hinge question (or questions) must be answered correctly before students can move on to the next section of learning.
For example, if students are learning how to solve linear equations, they may have to complete hinge questions on solving one-step equations (such as 4x=12), before moving on to two-step equations (such as 4x-2=10).
If, for example, 90 per cent of students get the question correct, then the class can move on. If not, then re-teaching is needed.
Rather than waiting until the end of the lesson, hinge questions can be used wherever you are about to take a step up in learning, and so never become redundant bits of planning.
If we consider the information that exit tickets provide us with – an overview of student understanding of just taught content – there is a very easy way to assess this early in the lesson, through live marking.
Live marking involves circulating the class and marking work as you go. This allows you to provide reactive feedback to students and ensures that the students know they are on the right track. It also allows you to quickly identify common mistakes being made and address them, potentially through a whole class re-model, very quickly. There’s no need to wait until the next lesson (which could be a week away) as you might have to with exit tickets.
These are just three alternatives; there are bound to be many more. They all require minimal workload, are highly adaptive, and support students to understand their own learning, and therefore are much more effective than the exit ticket. Yes, in my opinion, it’s definitely time to show exit tickets the door.
Nathan Burns is the head of maths at a school in Derbyshire