Dissecting Formative Assessment – Post One

Dissecting Formative Assessment – Post OneDylan Wiliam has identified five strategies that he has come to believe are core to successful formative assessment practice in the classroom. Over the next five formative assessment blog posts, we’ll break each strategy down for better understanding of how it fits into the big picture of formative assessment. First, here are his five strategies:

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

This blog will cover the first of the five strategies – clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and the criteria for success.

Setting expectations is crucial in so many aspects of life, whether on the job, on the playing field, or in the classroom. Understanding the foundation and fundamentals of success is paramount to achieving success.

In 2000, C.A. Tell and some of his fellow researchers reported similar results from the implementation of a standards-based instructional system. Forty-four secondary school teachers and college faculty were followed for a two-year period. Qualitative data including teachers’ journal entries, classroom artifacts (e.g., assignments, in-class assessments, and student work), survey responses, and transcripts from team meetings and focus groups were collected and analyzed. From the analysis and triangulation of this data, the authors found that teachers who shared learning expectations with students by using scoring rubrics; explained standards, criteria, and expectations; and worked with the students to develop student-friendly learning goals reported that the process put their students at the center of the learning process, helped students continually monitor their own progress, and made the students more accountable for their own work.  (A framework of teacher knowledge and skills necessary in a standards-based system: Lessons from high school and university faculty. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.)

Clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and what creates success transcends teachers, students and peers. It’s a team effort where each member of the classroom learning team understands their role, what’s expected of them, and how success is determined. On the field, success for some might mean protecting the quarterback from being sacked, while success for others might be gaining a first down or passing for ten yards. Whatever the role a player on a football field plays, the ‘learning intention’ is the same – to pick up a first down, score a touchdown, win the game, while the ‘criteria for success’ may differ depending upon their role. Ultimately, it’s up to the coach (teacher) to set these expectations in advance so that the entire team (classroom) is operating with the same targets in mind.

With collaboration playing a greater role in classrooms – thanks in part to the Common Core State Standards – learning is becoming more and more team-based, and with any team understanding expectations is a cornerstone for success. Be sure to come back for the next blog in our series, where we’ll discuss engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning. Until then, we’d love to hear how you set expectations with your students, so drop a comment below.


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