What is Formative Assessment?

What is Formative Assessment?

We’ve blogged, and will continue to blog, about formative assessment strategies, so perhaps we should back up a bit and share how we define formative assessment. The term is used a lot across education, along with interim/benchmark assessments and summative assessments, and I think it’s fair to say that different groups – parents and district administrators to name two – would each have a different definition to formative assessment.

Here’s how we define these assessment types:

Formative Assessment – planned classroom practice to elicit evidence of learning minute to minute, day by day in the classroom; along with non-summative assessments that occur while content is still being taught. Both of these can inform teachers of what students know or do not know, help students understand what it is they are ready to learn next, so teachers can adjust their instruction accordingly for each of their students.

Interim/Benchmark Assessments – tests administered at different intervals throughout the year to evaluate student knowledge and skills relative to a specific set of academic goals. Results are used to inform instruction and decision making at the classroom, school and district level, and can be used to measure student growth over time.

Summative Assessments – state or district-wide standardized tests that measure grade-level proficiency, and end-of-year subject or course exams.

As we continue to blog about formative assessment strategies, it is with these definitions in mind that we will reference these various assessments.


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