When most people think about assessments, they still think mainly of summative or perhaps interim, and yet assessment plays out in classrooms every day, and often it’s not unfolding the way it should. Many classroom discussions consist of lower-order questions that are answered by only a few motivated students. These questions aren’t rich enough to provide detailed information about student learning, and responses aren’t systematically collected from all students in the class.
Formative assessment proponent Dylan Wiliam says:
The fundamental flaw in the traditional questioning model is that it makes participation voluntary. The confident students engage by raising their hands—and by engaging in classroom discussion, they become smarter. But others decline the invitation to participate and thus miss out on the chance to get smarter.
While asking the right questions is important, how educators receive answers is equally important. For teachers to truly assess student learning, all students need to participate. When all students are engaged – in answering questions, participating in classroom discussion, or sharing with peers – teachers can better determine who understands the material and who needs a little extra help. This evidence gathering is where formative assessment plays a big role.
Formative assessment is a set of strategies, techniques, and tools that encourages both students and teachers to continually gather evidence of learning in the classroom and use that evidence to adapt instruction and learning moment-to-moment and day-to-day.
Used during instruction, formative instructional practice creates an environment where educators and students:
- collect critical information about learning progress
- uncover opportunities for review
- provide feedback
- suggest adjustments to both the teacher’s approach to instruction and the student’s approach to learning
Many different tools support the practice of formative assessment in collecting information about learning and providing feedback. Here are just a few you may already be familiar with:
- hand-held clickers
- individual whiteboards
- status indicators (red, yellow, green)
- teacher created tests, quizzes, and item banks
For a detailed list, you can check out my blog – The Ultimate List: 65 Digital Education Tools and Apps to Support Formative Assessment Practices (one of our most popular blogs here at Teach. Learn. Grow.!).
Have you tried formative assessment in your classroom? What strategy do you prefer, and how is it working? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or send us a Tweet (@NWEA). We’d love to hear from you!