Six Steps to Formative Assessment Success in the Classroom

Six Steps to Formative Assessment Success in the ClassroomIn a post not too long ago, I highlighted three reasons to prioritize formative assessment in the classroom. Formative assessment may be a buzz word in education these days, but it’s more than that; it will bring together all of the things you as a teacher do to help transform all students into learners who are active participants in their own education. While many teachers incorporate formative assessment practices into their instruction, educational leaders are still faced with a challenge: how to make formative assessment a lasting habit that’s part of the school or district culture.

The organizations that support their teachers’ consistent use of formative assessment across grade levels and subject areas experience more than just increased student engagement. They also see greater teacher engagement and collaboration, which results in an enhanced instructional environment for all students. But how do they get there?

So what are some specific things leaders can do to support teachers in integrating formative assessment into their daily routines? What does it take? What does it look like? Dylan Wiliam developed a list of five key process components to promote and support the development of classroom formative assessment. We’ve modified that list and added to it. Here are six keys to formative assessment success in the classroom:

  1. Choice. Ensure teachers have some autonomy in deciding which formative assessment practices and strategies to try implementing or how exactly to approach the learning. By providing choice, we can better respond to different teacher readiness levels.
  1. Flexibility. Encourage teachers to make modifications to the strategies to make them their own so that they’re as applicable and relevant as possible to their environment and for their students.
  1. Small Steps. Learning is incremental and it takes time to change practice. To make lasting change, support teachers with the time, resources, and coaching they need as they transfer new learning into their daily routines.
  1. Responsiveness. The information we collect is nothing until we act on it. Support teachers in not just eliciting evidence of learning, but then also making responsive adjustments to their instruction based on that data. It is also important for the teacher to teach students to be responsive in using their own data.
  1. Collegial support. Provide teachers with both a space to collaborate with peers around formative assessment practices and the time to meet. This gives teachers opportunities to develop personal action plans, report back to a peer group about the result of implementing those plans, and reflect and receive feedback from colleagues who are addressing similar challenges.
  1. Supportive answerability. Teachers, like any professionals, need to be held responsible for results AND they must be provided with the time and resources to accomplish meaningful change.

For school and district leaders, the combination of these six keys helps clarify who owns the learning (teachers) and who’s responsible for the learning environment (leaders). For more information on ways to integrate formative assessment in the classroom you can check out our blog posts on the subject, or download the eBook – How to Make Formative Assessment a Habit: Beyond the Classroom Practices.