If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you know that I’m a huge proponent of formative assessment. Unlike summative or interim assessments – which I believe serve a valuable purpose – formative assessment is assessment FOR learning and not OF learning (and it can be AS learning). There’s a big difference.
As Tom Schimmer points out in his blog post – Everything is Assessment – teachers should not have to stop teaching in order to conduct formative assessments. As he states:
…if I were to walk into a classroom and observe, the lines between the moments of assessment, instruction, and feedback would be blurred; the chosen strategies would seamlessly lead students and teachers through a continuous assessment-instruction-feedback loop. While there are always exceptions to any rule, we should, as much as possible, strive to infuse our assessment for learning practices into our instructional strategies.
Leslie Lambert says in her book, Standards-based Assessment of Student Learning: A Comprehensive Approach, “…anyone observing the class should not be able to tell where instruction ends and assessment begins.”
This continuous “assessment-instruction-feedback loop” that Tom articulates is why formative assessment is so powerful if done correctly. Teachers can get a real-time snapshot of their students’ learning to determine how they need to adjust their teaching in the moment, without waiting for exam results or test scores, when for all intents and purposes it’s too late to affect student learning.
Tom goes on to articulate two guidelines to applying formative assessment to nearly everything that teachers do:
First, every activity must be linked to the intended learning. Activities are just activities unless there is a direct link between the activity and the intended learning; that’s what turns a task into a target. Second, the results of every activity must have the potential to illicit an instructional response from the teacher. One of the core fundamentals behind formative assessment is that the collective results are used to decide what comes next in the learning.
Following these two guidelines any teacher can use formative assessment to move their learners forward, and it’s not hard. We’ve blogged just recently, identifying 22 formative assessment tactics and techniques that teachers can use today with little or no cost. Check them out and try some in your class or school. Some techniques work better than others in certain classes, depending on the number of students, subject matter being taught or the grade, but with many techniques available you’ll certainly find one that works best for you, and they all deliver valuable teacher insight without teaching interruption.
Share your formative assessment techniques below. What kind of results did you achieve? What did your students think?
Photo credit to Wonderlane.