Dissecting Formative Assessment – Post Four

Young girl writing on whiteboard.Dylan Wiliam has identified five core strategies that make up a successful formative assessment practice in the classroom. They are:

1. Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success

2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning

3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward

4. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another

5. Activating learners as owners of their own learning

Our first post dissected the first strategy – clarifying, sharing and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success. Our second post walked through some effective questioning techniques designed to elicit evidence of student learning. And our last post talked about the importance of providing feedback to help students learn. Here we’ll share how activating learners as resources for one another helps empower students and moves learning targets along.

Research has shown that engaging students in self and peer assessment significantly improves student learning, and with the Common Core State Standards relying heavily on student collaboration that’s a good thing.

In one study, primary school students who were given concrete structures and explicit guidance for peer assessment, specifically in communicating, working, and thinking with others, had significantly higher achievement and reasoning scores (Mercer et al., 2004, Reasoning as a scientist: Ways of helping children to use language to learn science. British Educational Research Journal, 30(3), 359–377.).

In another study, White and Frederiksen (1998, Inquiry, modeling, and metacognition. Making science accessible to all students. Cognition and Instruction, 16(1), 3–118.) found that students engaged in an inquiry science curriculum scored significantly higher than their peers when a reflective assessment process combining peer  and self-assessment was introduced. The differences between the two groups were also found to be significantly greater for those students who scored low on a test of basic skills prior to the study.

In Visible Learning (2009), John Hattie tells us that “the overall effect of the use of peers as co-teachers (of themselves and others) in classes is, overall, quite powerful. If the aim is to teach students self-regulation and control over their own learning then they must move from being student to being teacher…” Formative assessment strategies help students support one another and take responsibility for their own learning by providing teachers with tools and support for creating additional structures and opportunities for students to think together reflectively and metacognitively about their own learning and their peers and to assess their own work and understanding as well as their peers’.

Often classrooms are organized around a lecture, and information is presented with little student involvement. To be successful today, classroom instruction needs to be engineered with student collaboration in mind. How do you create classroom environments built around collaboration? Share your tips, techniques and ideas in our comments section below.


How to prepare kids for testing

Assessment data is most useful when students are able to give their best effort on a test. There’s a lot you can do to set them up for success—even when testing remotely.

Read more


Set goals for growth and mastery

Ready to set some goals for your students, classroom, or school? Download our guide for quick tips, perspectives from educators, and printable resources.

Get the guide


A small step for big gains in equity

Academic success can depend largely on what kids learn by third grade. The right assessment empowers teachers to differentiate instruction as early as kindergarten, so no one gets left behind.

See how