What Is Formative Assessment
By the end of this module you should be able to:
- Define formative assessment
- Evaluate different types of formative assessment
The Assessment Stigma
Let's begin this mini-course with a quick activity in the form of a word association. What images, feelings, or memories are evoked when you think about the word "ASSESSMENT"?
Would you classify your thoughts on assessment as POSITIVE or NEGATIVE?
Were your first thoughts about an exam and receiving a grade?
Perhaps you had a similar reaction to Spongebob Squarepants seen below:
For many educators as well as non-educators, "assessment" is often associated with summative assessments, standardized testing, and buzz words like "high-stakes testing". However, tests are only one tool available in a teacher's arsenal of assessment strategies. Often referred to as "low-stakes" or "no-stakes" assessment, formative assessment is an underappreciated and underused strategy that has the ability to improve student learning and ultimately performance on summative assessments.
What is Formative Assessment?
Before we can evaluate formative assessment methods we first need a clear idea of what formative assessment is. Let's explore a few definitions:
"Practice in a classroom is formative to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited." (Black and William, 2009)
"At the center of all this research is one underlying idea: Formative assessment is a constantly occurring process, a verb, a series of events in action, not a single tool or a static noun. In order for formative assessment to have an impact on instruction and student learning, teachers must be involved every step of the way and have the flexibility to make decisions throughout the assessment process." (NTCE, 2017)
"Formative assessment is a process that uses informal assessment strategies to gather information on student learning. Teachers determine what students are understanding and what they still need to learn to master a goal or outcome. Strategies used to gather formative assessment information take place during regular class instruction as formative assessment and instruction are closely linked. Most formative assessment strategies are quick and easy to use and fit seamlessly into the instruction process." (Reiger, 2012).
Essentially, formative assessment is a way for teachers to evaluate individual student achievement "on the fly" and use this data to support students in their learning and improve future lessons.
Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the Theory of Formative Assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation And Accountability, 21(1), 5-31.
Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction. (2017). Ncte.org. http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/formative-assessment