Singing Praise for Formative Assessment

Singing Praise - Formative AssessmentIf you follow our blog you know that we blog consistently on formative assessment, from techniques and classroom strategies to our own assessment-based teacher professional development implementations in school districts. So I was delighted when I saw Jim Popham’s commentary piece at Education WeekWaving the Flag for Formative Assessment.

He talks about two factors that signal the time is right for teachers to adopt formative assessment strategies in their classrooms.

1. The current implementation of the Common Core State Standards that most states have adopted. With summative assessment results unavailable until the spring of 2015 there is a lag in understanding student understanding and mastery of the new material. Formative assessment can fill this gap, giving teachers the evidence of student understanding they need to adjust their teaching in the moment and help students adjust their learning.

2. The installation of new teacher-evaluation procedures. In some states up to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on student performance on state tests. If teachers don’t utilize some method of ensuring students understand and comprehend the new state standards, and given the gap mentioned in point one, the teacher’s evaluation is left to chance.

As Jim mentioned in his commentary:

These two stage-setting educational events are nontrivial developments. The adoption of the common standards and the explosion of federally initiated teacher-evaluation programs are both likely to make whopping differences in what goes on in our schools. Teachers who are adept at carrying out the formative-assessment process, therefore, will be better positioned to deal with either of these precedent-setting events.

This is an extraordinary moment in time when leaders of American education can legitimately advocate that teachers should adopt formative assessment because it will be in teachers’ best interests to do so. Happily, if teachers follow this advice, those who benefit most will be their students.

And to Jim’s point… it works. It’s grounded in repeated research that points to its success. It’s the foundation of Keeping Learning on Track™ (KLT) that was pioneered by a team of researchers led by Dylan Wiliam – one big idea and five core strategies:

Students and teachers continuously using evidence of learning to adapt what happens in the classroom.

1. Clarifying, sharing and understanding learning targets and success criteria.
2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, questions, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning.
3. Providing feedback that moves learners forward.
4. Activating students as the owners of their own learning.
5. Activating students as instructional resources for one another.

Formative assessment works. It’s time has come. Carpe Diem!


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