Key Points About Formative Assessment

06 Mar 2017

Definition of Formative Assessment

  • Assessment becomes “formative assessment” when the evidence is used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs.
  • Quantitative evidence of formative assessment is weak owing to methodological challenges in implementing educational interventions.

Key features of formative assessment implementation

  • Sharing learning goals with pupils.
  • Help pupils to know and to recognise the standards they are aiming for.
  • Involves pupils in peer and self-assessment.
  • Provides feedback which leads to pupils recognising their next steps and how to take them.
  • Involves both teacher and pupils reviewing and reflecting on assessment data.
  • Given the lack of a universal model of how to undertake formative assessment, implementation needs to be flexible and adaptive to teachers’ needs.

Strategies for undertaking formative assessment around key areas of practice

  • Move away from questions on facts to open questions that invite discussion such as ‘why is this’, ‘how might you express this?’ where the teacher can provide immediate feedback on the student’s understanding.
  • Avoiding numerical scores and focusing on written comments that identify what has been done well and what still needs improvement and give guidance on how to make that improvement.
  • Embed peer and self-assessment strategies:
    • Students identify their self-assessed level of understanding by marking their work green, amber or red.
    • Peer-assessment is ‘three stars and a wish’, where the peer reviewer has to identify and comment upon three things in the work that have been successful and one thing that could be improved.
    • Students identify (perhaps with ‘traffic lights’) those topics that they have sufficiently understood and those that need further effort.
    • Students generate and answer their own questions on topics to be covered by the test (summative assessment).
    • Peer-marking of tests (summative assessment) where the students have themselves been involved in developing the marking rubric or if they use the ‘three stars and a wish’ approach.

Examples of how technology has been used for formative assessment

  • e-learning and learning management systems.
  • Mobile technologies.
  • Blogs.
  • Classroom response systems.
  • Computer games.
  • Students self-monitor their understanding and progress in class topics, thus providing the teacher with large amounts of individual data that they can use to inform discussions about the student’s weaknesses and strengths and decisions around these.
  • Online diagnostic tests that in addition to providing a score automatically identifies what, if any, misconceptions the student holds about the topic in question. Students can then be directed to remedial learning activities.
  • Automatic essay marking repurposed to provide students with almost instantaneous feedback on their writing.
  • Classroom response systems in which teachers identify patterns in individual responses, assess understanding and inform individualised teaching. These depend entirely on the quality of the questions and possible responses provided to the students.

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