Formative Assessment in the Classroom

Tuesday, May 12, 2015 -- Ashlee Tatum-Eckley

There is a constant buzz in the news around testing and the question of whether or not students are being over-tested. No matter where you stand, determining what students know and where learning breaks down is critical to the education process. That’s where formative assessments come into play. Formative assessments are a fluid measure of student progress. They provide ongoing feedback that benefits both the teacher and student. These types of assessments monitor a student’s performance during instruction in the classroom and are unique in that they occur regularly throughout the instructional process, rather than periodically at the end of a unit or semester. This allows for adjustments and collaboration based on student progress and need.

Are you working to incorporate formative assessments into your classroom? These strategies will help as you develop your formative assessment practices.

Think of Formative Assessment as a Verb Instead of a Noun

As you develop your strategy for progress monitoring, think about ‘formative assessment’ as a verb, or an action rather than a noun or a thing. How will you formatively assess your students over time? What types of initiatives will you undertake to get the pulse on your students’ progress?  If you refine your practices now, formative assessing won’t feel like testing to your students, and they will be more successful when summative assessments roll around.

Seek Out Information Informally

This strategy is less formalized than what you might think of in relation to a traditional assessment. It involves a feedback loop that you can start by monitoring classroom discussions, asking informal questions of your students and watching them as they work to identify areas where they might be struggling. These less formal measures of student progress were described by a 2011 Education Week article as “things that don’t normally end up in the grade book—they’re little feedback loops signaling the amount of progress we’re making toward the end goal.”

Give and Get Explicit Feedback
Give and get direct feedback along the way! This is the hallmark of the formative assessment process and will ensure that you are assessing for learning rather than assessing what has already been learned. This relates back to the concept of thinking about formative assessment as a verb or an action. It is an ongoing process that includes the all-important feedback loop between you and your students, alerting you to possible challenges, giving students control over their learning, and ensuring time for you and your students to react.

Formative assessments can vary in scope. They can be as short as an informal discussion or as long as a student project or written composition, but the key differentiator is how and when you use the data gained from it all. For some specific formative assessment examples, check out TEAL’s fact sheet on formative assessment and Edutopia’s 56 different examples of formative assessment.

Want to learn more about how Edmentum can help support your formative assessment goals? Check out Study Island, our high-impact, high-value learning program that provides quality academic support, practice, and real-time reporting. With immediate feedback, built-in remediation, and actionable data, Study Island enables you to easily monitor student progress and differentiate instruction. You can learn more about all of Edmentum’s solutions for formative assessment here.