Dissecting Formative Assessment – Post Five

Dissecting Formative Assessment – Post FiveAccording to Dylan Wiliam there are five core strategies that make up a successful formative assessment practice in the classroom. 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 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. Our third post talked about the importance of providing feedback to help students learn. And in our last post we shared how activating learners as resources for one another helps empower students and moves learning targets along. In this last post in the series, we’ll speak to activating learners as owners of their learning.

Research on the self-regulation of learning, including self-assessment and self-monitoring, indicates that students who engage in these activities are more likely to develop internal attributions, a feeling of empowerment, and a sense of autonomy.

In 1996, Fernandes and Fontana (Changes in the control beliefs in Portuguese primary school pupils as a consequence of the employment of self-assessment strategies. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 66, 301–313) established a training program of self-assessment strategies with 25 primary school teachers. Over a period of eight months, these teachers implemented these strategies within their classrooms. Students in these classrooms were compared to students in the classrooms of 20 control teachers. Results indicated that students who are provided with regular opportunities and encouragement to engage in self-assessment are more likely to attribute their learning to internal beliefs, that is, students believe they can have an impact on their own learning. These students were less likely to attribute success to luck or other unknown variables and were more likely to identify the real causes of academic success (learning, effort, etc.).

In another study in 2004, Brookhart, Andolina, Zusa and Furman (Minute Math: An action research study of student self-assessment. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 57, 213–227) examined the impact of student self-monitoring on 41 students in two classrooms. Students were provided with structures and tools (logs, graphs, reflection sheets, etc.) to reflect each week on the success of their study and problem-solving strategies. An analysis of student reflection sheets showed that when teachers involved their students in monitoring their own progress, students were more autonomous and were able to accurately predict their performance on timed tests. Overall, the students in this study enjoyed participating in self-assessment and liked seeing their progress. Student comments on their reflection sheets also acknowledged the value of their own studying.

In general, in many classrooms the students are a passive audience. For students to become actively engaged with the learning process, they need guidelines and opportunities to learn and engage in self-assessment. For formative assessment to fully work there needs to be practical classroom techniques for teachers to design opportunities for students to think reflectively and metacognitively about their own learning as well as to assess their own work and learning. This allows students to take responsibility for their own learning by engaging other students in the process of thinking about, assessing, and acting on evidence of their own learning.

In his book – Transformative Assessment in Action – James Popham shares several first hand stories of teachers’ usage of formative assessment in their classroom. I’ll end the blog with a couple of good excerpts that are worth sharing (and from teachers with whom I have worked):

Soon, I experienced the power of formative assessment for myself… We started as a classroom of 1 teacher and 27 students, and became a culture of 28 teachers and 28 learners, all with individual strengths, all able to assist one another, and all with the desire to assist one another. (Jill Rodgers, Denver Colorado)

My students self-assess and immediately document their growth and any problems they are encountering on their progress-monitoring sheets. Students understand that this is a daily part of their learning. It provides them with concrete information that they can use to change their learning tactics and to reach their desired learning targets. (D’Lane Joens, Kersey, Colorado)


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