Assessing student progress during learning to adjust and improve instruction.
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The importance of formative assessment
Assessment is formative when:
Evidence is gathered about student achievement or understanding.
The information allows the instructor or learner to alter future instructional steps.
It is done to improve learning outcomes (Black & Wiliam, 2009).
It is the use of the assessment that makes it formative. If evidence of student achievement is not used to adapt instruction or to give feedback to students to improve their learning, it is summative. Formative assessments are a natural part of the scaffolding process, and provide the following benefits:
Helps recognize student strengths and knowledge or skill gaps to determine level of scaffolding needed.
Used to adapt instruction and reflect on instructional practices.
Allows for opportunities to give feedback and guide learning.
Determines level of understanding or skill development.
Identifies areas to review and study.
Promotes self-regulating strategies.
Allows for opportunities to receive feedback and guidance.
Therefore, use formative assessments to:
Check for understanding.
Gauge progress toward learning outcomes.
Provide students with support and guidance.
Pace instruction and adjust as needed.
Previous studies, and large meta-analyses that gather the findings from these studies have shown large effects on student learning gains, equivalent of 1 to 2 letter grades, when teachers use formative assessment (Black & Wiliam, 1998; 2006; Hattie, 2008). It should be noted that there are challenges to the accuracy of research on formative assessment, with the most notable criticisms being vague and often circular definitions of what constitutes formative assessment, poor research design of many studies, and no agreed upon methods or terminology for formative assessment (Dunn & Mulvenon, 2009; Kingston & Nash, 2011). These are issues related to how people have studied formative assessment and not formative assessment itself.
Using formative assessment in your course
Examples of formative assessment
The following examples of assessment can be used formatively to assess student achievement and alter teaching and learning throughout your course.
Activities, assignments and assessments can all be utilized as formative approaches if they are used to give instructors and students feedback to alter teaching and learning. For feedback to your students to be effective it must be timely, relevant and caring.
Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)
Classroom Assessment Techniques (Angelo and Cross, 1993) are formative assessments that are meant to be quick and flexible formative assessments. The following sites have compiled a variety of examples:
Example of a popular, broadly-applicable CAT – “exit tickets.”
For further information about active learning, see the following readings:
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. Second Edition. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5(1), 7–74. https://doi.org/10.1080/0969595980050102
Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2006). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. London, England: Granada Learning.
Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21(1), 5–31.
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Dunn, K. E., & Mulvenon, S. W. (2009). A critical review of research on formative assessment: The limited scientific evidence of the impact of formative assessment in education. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 14(7), 1–11.
Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. John Wiley & Sons.
Fuchs, L. S., Fuchs, D., Karns, K., Hamlett, C. L., Katzaroff, M., & Dutka, S. (1997). Effects of task-focused goals on low-achieving students with and without learning disabilities. American Educational Research Journal, 34(3), 513-543.
Hattie, J. (2008). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. New York, NY: Routledge.
Kingston, N., & Nash, B. (2011). Formative assessment: A meta-analysis and a call for research. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 30(4), 28–37.
Moss, C. M., & Brookhart, S. M. (2010). Advancing formative assessment in every classroom: A guide for instructional leaders. ASCD.
Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative assessment. Designing assessments to inform and improve student performance. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 350 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104.
Wiliam, D., & Thompson, M. (2017). Integrating assessment with learning: what will it take to make it work? In C. A. Dwyer (Ed.), The Future of Assessment: Shaping Teaching and Learning (pp. 53–82). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.