Dissecting Formative Assessment – Post Three

Dissecting Formative Assessment – Post ThreeTo successfully implement formative assessment practice in the classroom, education expert Dylan Wiliam has identified five core strategies. 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. In this post, we’ll discuss providing feedback that moves learning forward.

When teachers give students feedback to promote thinking, identify specific areas for improvement, and provide time, students act upon the feedback to improve their work. For feedback to be effective, two things must occur:

1. Feedback must identify any gaps between a desired learning goal and the student’s present status towards that learning goal, and

2. Students must take action to close that gap (Black & Wiliam, 1998; Ramaprasad, 1983; Sadler, 1989).

In 2003, J.B. Nyquist, in his unpublished master’s thesis – The benefits of reconstructing feedback as a larger system of formative assessment, found evidence that feedback that provides information regarding gaps in student knowledge and information on how to reduce those gaps produced the most substantial gains in students’ knowledge. In his review of 86 research articles on the effects of feedback on learning outcomes, the author examined 95 studies (which included a total of 12,920 research participants) and calculated 185 effect sizes. The results of a multiple regression show a pattern of progression. In other words, the more consistent the feedback with the definition above, the better the result. Effect sizes ranged from 0.16 for weaker feedback to 0.51 for stronger feedback.

Other research studies by Bangert-Drowns and others found that on average, feedback made a positive contribution to achievement, raising scores by about one-fourth of a standard deviation. One standard deviation is the equivalent of 35 percentile points, 2-4 grades, 100 SAT score points and 5 ACT composite score points, so one-fourth of a standard deviation is considerable. However, the type of feedback provided impacted the effect sizes observed. Feedback that in some way informed the learner of the correct answer had a higher effect than feedback that only indicated when a response is incorrect.

Armed with practical classroom techniques which provide students with feedback to move learning forward and creating structures for students to reflect on and formatively use feedback for further understanding is a key component to effectively using formative assessment. It allows students to take responsibility for their own learning by telling students not just what needs to be done to improve, but also providing specific details, time, and structure for students to use feedback to move their own learning forward.

If you’re a teacher we’d love to hear how you provide feedback to your students, so share your thoughts, techniques and ideas in the comments section below.


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