1: Formative Assessment- What is it & why use it?


Learning Objective

Define and explain what formative assessment is and the benefits of using it in the classroom.

You have already 'identified the problem,' step one of the design process, by selecting to take this course. You may feel as though there is more you can do to use and provide learners with feedback throughout instruction, to better accommodate their needs in a timely manner, which will result in student success. However, there lacks clarity in the definition of formative assessment and what the benefits are for both the students and the teacher.
In this phase, a definition of formative assessment will be established and the benefits will be identified. At the conclusion of this unit, the learner will begin to address steps 2 & 3 of the design process, which are 'identifying constraints and brainstorming possible solutions, respectively.

What is formative assessment?

"Formative assessment, on the other hand, delivers information during the instructional process, before the summative assessment. Both the teacher and the student use formative assessment results to make decisions about what actions to take to promote further learning. It is an ongoing, dynamic process that involves more than frequent testing, and measurement of student learning is just one of its components (Chappouis, 2007)."

To put it in simpler terms:

"Formative assessment is a systematic process to continuously gather evidence about learning. The data are used to identify a student's current level of learning and adapt lessons to help the student reach the desired learning goal (Heritage, 2007)."

Formative assessment is frequently referred to as 'assessment for learning' (Chappuis, 2007).

What are the benefits of formative assessment?

  • Teachers can adapt instruction on the basis of evidence (formative assessment), adjusting instruction to assist students to reach established goals
  • Students can use evidence (feedback) of their current progress and allows students to take control of their own learning.
  • Clear learning objectives allow students to see the purpose of activities and to see where they are headed
  • Provides timely feedback to students that will allow them to adjust their understanding and process.
  • Improves communication between the student and the teacher as there is more transparency in students zone of proximal development.
  • Formative assessment can take many different forms

Check for Understanding

--> Check your Understanding

What are the identified needs of teachers regarding formative assessment?

"To many of today's teachers, assessment is synonymous with high-stakes standardized tests. But there is an entirely different kind of assessment that can actually transform both teaching and learning (Heritage, 2007)."

Assessment is often tied with a 'numerical' grade and never referenced again, especially by the students. How many of us have seen students receive the typical feedback such as a quiz, homework, or anything graded and then toss it immediately, perhaps not so hopefully, into the recycling bin? Testing is a common discussion among teachers of all disciplines whether it is with regard to how often we are assessing, the validity of the assessment or standards, or what we are learning from the assessment results. Assessment, however doesn't have to come with a price-tag for the student or the teacher; this is where formative assessment can be a useful instructional classroom tool. As a result, teachers typically avoid assessment or testing because of the associate anxieties and stigmas they produce.

"Teachers learn how to teach without learning much about how to assess (Heritage, 2007)."

Many of the resources identified that teachers want to implement formative assessment practices, however they lack training, resources, and support within their discipline and within their districts.

Learning Journal: Update K/NTK document

Update your Know/Need to Know Journal from the Entry Event page. Have you answered any of the questions that you had regarding formative assessment? If you have answered any of your NTKs, record the answers. Do you have any new questions you would like answered? If yes, record these as well.

Benchmark #1: Research & Brainstorm

  • Select a unit of instruction where you would like to increase the opportunity to provide and receive critical feedback
  • Identify two benefits of formative assessment you want to focus on. Why did you select these two in particular?
  • What methods do you feel might assist you in accomplishing your goal?