Formative Assessment For Learning – Making the Case for Classroom Success

Formative Assessment For Learning – Making the Case for Classroom SuccessThroughout our blogging efforts around formative assessment, or what is also called assessment for learning, we’ve shared strategies and tactics for successfully implementing the practice at the classroom level. We’ve also devoted a considerable amount of time to sharing our thoughts on structured teacher professional development that is based on embedded formative assessment. So it’s particularly validating to hear echoed thoughts from Education Canada Magazine in a recent article – Co-Constructing Success Criteria: Assessment in the Service of Learning.

Anne Davies and Sandra Herbst, the article’s two authors, make some great points that are worth reiterating:

Assessment for learning is what teachers do during the learning. Teachers involve students in assessment by sharing clear learning destinations, using samples to help students understand quality and development, and involving students in co-constructing criteria and in self and peer assessment. They also involve students in collecting evidence of learning and communicating evidence of that learning to others.

Student involvement in their own learning is a key part of formative assessment, or assessment for learning. Self-regulation of learning drives student ownership of their progress as well as that of their fellow students. In fact, two pieces of research on the self-regulation of learning, including self-assessment and self-monitoring, indicate that students who engage in these activities are more likely to believe in their ability to learn, develop internal attributions, a feeling of empowerment and a sense of autonomy. These behaviors not only help students take responsibility for their own learning, but can lead directly to improved student performance.

Leaders need to understand what quality assessment looks like, what can be done to support teachers, and how to use assessment in the service of learning in their own work as leaders. We have learned that successful implementation of assessment in support of learning occurs when students, teachers, school leaders, and system leaders are all involved and all engaged in using assessment to support learning – both their own learning and the learning of those around them.

We’ve discussed our approach to teacher professional development via Teacher Learning Communities; scheduled on-going meetings of teachers, where structured discussions build collaborative learning. The article does a great job of highlighting what professional learning communities criteria look like when they’re driven through much of the same formative assessment strategies that are employed in the classroom. And, in fact most all of them can be categorized into our own criteria:

1. Choice
2. Flexibility
3. Incremental steps
4. Support
5. Accountability

I encourage you to read the article (the authors share two great classroom examples), check out some of our blogs that discuss some ways to implement formative assessment in the classroom and then ask the question that Anne and Sandra ask, “Could you do this with your learners? If not, why not?”

Photo credit to Dave Schott.