Not to be confused with interim or summative assessments, formative assessment is a planned classroom practice and set of tools designed to elicit evidence of learning minute-by-minute and day-by-day. The idea here is to inform the teacher of what students know or do not know, help students understand what it is they need to know, and give teachers the temperature check they need to make adjustments in their teaching.
Here at Teach. Learn. Grow. we’ve imparted a lot of information on formative assessment – techniques and tactics for implementing it in the classroom; digital tools and tips to make it easier to implement; and research and proof points on its effectiveness at improving student learning. Our extensive blogging and passion for formative assessment is evident, so when I saw Larry Ferlazzo’s blog post at Education Week recently where he shared other educator perspectives on formative assessment I took notice. In fact, I wanted to share a few excerpts from his guests as they were quite poignant.
Formative assessments are critical in helping teachers uncover strengths and next steps for each student to power individual, small group, and whole class instruction. – Jennifer Serravallo, Literacy Consultant and former NYC teacher
One last piece to understand is that an assessment is not summative until the teacher or student decides it is. There is a strange phenomenon that when we name an assessment as summative it always must be. Not true! In fact, teachers and students can use assessments as tools for learning, and use them to decide whether or not it is a time to evaluate the learning, or to inform it. With these tools, teachers can use formative assessment to reflect on their practice and ensure they do their best to meet the needs of all students. – Andre Miller, Faculty for the Buck Institute for Education
While the two of us may be a bit old-school meets new-school in our methods, on this we agree: one characteristic that separates good teaching from masterful teaching is the teacher’s routine use of formative assessment techniques that are embedded in every lesson. – Daniel Venables, Educational Consultant and Founding Director of the Center for Authentic PLCs, and Brady Venables, Instructional Technology Coach for Saluda County Schools
Formative assessments for learning are essential to improving the effectiveness of teaching and to meeting the diverse learning needs of all students. – Larry Ainsworth, Education Consultant and Author
It’s great to see formative assessment getting more attention, and along with it more praise. Formative assessment is a proven tool for moving students forward, there are many techniques that make it flexible and accommodating for nearly any classroom environment and it’s not hard to implement. Here are five quick tips for integrating formative assessment into your daily classroom routine:
- Start small – pick 1-3 strategies/techniques (see the links below to some ideas) and practice them until they are routine – for both you and your students. Be persistent here; things may not go as planned the first few times you try.
- Be transparent with the students about what you are doing and why – What happens if you start out by saying, “How do you think you did on this lesson today? Rate yourself from 1-10.”? Without prior knowledge, practice or criteria students can use to gauge how they did, this would be challenging.
- Teach the students about formative assessment so they can use it too – Students will be curious about why you are doing things differently and expecting them to do the same. Teaching them to set goals, gather evidence of their learning, make adjustments and learn more will have benefits to you and your students that at this point you cannot imagine. One of my favorite stories is the high school girl who had never been successful in math talking about the changes in her classroom – “It’s about what you know, what you don’t know and what you’re going to do about it.”
- Integrate it daily (which for many of us means planning the use) – Pedagogy is practice. Formative assessment supports learning minute-to-minute and day-by-day. As we hone our practice of formative assessment, it becomes routinized and we hope it reaches a point for it is difficult to tell where teaching stops and assessment begins as learning is the driving factor for both. And formative assessment is a tool for learning.
- Celebrate the shifts – as the culture in your classroom shifts (that unspoken classroom contract), celebrate it. As students become resources for one another in ways you haven’t seen before – celebrate. As students begin to use academic vocabulary, articulate where they are in their learning and ask for what they need to learn – celebrate. As students become learners, as learning becomes the habit, as mistakes and assessments are seen as additional opportunities to learn – celebrate.
Try formative assessment in your classroom and share your results with us. We’d love to hear your stories.