Formative Assessment – What it Is, Why you Should Use It, and How to Make it Happen

Formative Assessment – What it Is, Why you Should Use It, and How to Make it HappenAs the number of blog posts we’ve written on formative assessment continues to grow, I thought it would be a good idea to create a blog that could serve as a general resource — sort of a go-to blog on everything formative assessment.

If you’re not familiar with formative assessment, or assessment for learning, the first thing you should do is understand what it is and, perhaps even more importantly, what it is not. Formative assessment is defined as 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, and help students understand what it is they are ready to learn next, so teachers can adjust their instruction accordingly for each of their students.

Here are a few blog posts that break down formative assessment further:

What is Formative Assessment?
Formative Assessment:  The Minute-to-Minute, Day-by-Day Kind
Formative Assessment vs. Summative Assessment Results:  Timing Matters

With a good understanding of what formative assessment is it’s important to break it down in succinct strategies that can help as you begin to determine the best way to implement it in a classroom setting. Here are some blog posts that get into more strategic detail of formative assessment:

Dylan Wiliam & The 5 Formative Assessment Strategies to Improve Student Learning
Dylan Wiliam and Putting Formative Assessment to Work
Dylan Wiliam:  Unpacking Formative Assessment
Improving Student Performance Requires Varied Teaching Strategies and Techniques

Now it comes time to use some formative assessment strategies and techniques in a classroom environment, so here are some ideas to get you started:

The Popsicle™ Stick
The Exit Ticket
The Whiteboard
Corners
Think-Pair-Share
Two Stars and a Wish
Carrousel Brainstorming
Jigsaw
ABCD Cards
Basketball Discussions
Student Centered Learning Strategies – Two Ideas for Providing Feedback

With the Common Core State Standards being rolled out across the country, formative assessment dovetails nicely with the need for deeper learning and higher-order thinking. Here are some ways that formative assessment can play a strong role in successful implementation of the Common Core:

Mapping Formative Assessment Strategies to the Common Core State Standards – Part One
Mapping Formative Assessment Strategies to the Common Core State Standards – Part Two
Mapping Formative Assessment Strategies to the Common Core State Standards – Part Three
Formative Assessment:  Higher-Order Questions and Increased Wait Time Increase Student Engagement
Encouraging Collaborative Learning for Improving Student Performance
Going Beyond Q and A:  Formative Assessment and Other Ideas for 100 Percent Student Participation

With all this information on formative assessment under your belt, there are digital tools and apps that can make implementation inexpensive, interactive and easy. Here are some of those tools and apps:

Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post One
Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post Two
Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post Three

Formative assessment is a proven strategy for engaging students, eliciting evidence of student learning, and moving students forward to meet their learning targets and personal goals. Hopefully these blog posts will help you implement these minute-to-minute techniques in your school or classroom. Tell us what you think and share some formative assessment resources you’ve found online by adding a comment below.