Formative Assessment – Key to Learning

This week, #saskedchat will explore Formative Assessment – Key to Learning a topic suggested by Dawn Bick an elementary science teacher from Fishers, IN.

Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment has become an important part of classroom assessment, providing teachers with a variety of information to support student learning. One of the most important aspects of FA is that it needs to inform upcoming lessons and be used by the teacher to make adjustments to meet the needs of the students. Using FA without using the information it provides is akin to checking a weather app but wearing shorts no matter the forecast.

There are a variety of different FA instructional strategies that teachers can use at all stages of a lesson – Before, During, or After learning.

Susan M. Brookhart’s Formative Assessment Strategies for Every Classroom: An ASCD Action Tool, 2nd Edition is a good resource for all teachers. It not only describes FA but provides a variety of strategies for developing FA, strategies for developing FA, and describes how to use FA in the classroom.

The article 5 Fantastic, Fast, Formative Assessment Tools by Vicki Davis (@coolcatteacher) describes Formative Assessment tools that teacher can use with technology including Kahoot, Socrative, and such tools as Plickers and QuickKey.

Natalie Regier, M. Ed. provides 60 Assessment Strategies that teachers can use –
This is a good resource for all teachers as it provides strategies that can be used at different age/grade levels.

What is Formative Assessment?

FA is the use of different assessment strategies to gather data about student learning to determine what students know and what they need to learn to meet a goal or outcome, using that information to plan and make adjustments to meet the learning needs of students.

According to Susan M. Brookhart (2010)

The best formative assessment involves both students and teachers in a
recursive process. It starts with the teacher, who models the process for .
the students. At first, the concept of what good work “looks like” belongs to
the teacher. The teacher describes, explains, or demonstrates the concepts
or skills to be taught, or assigns student investigations—reading assigned
material, locating and reading materials to answer a question, doing
activities or experiments—to put content into students’ hands.

Formative Assessment helps students to develop meta-cognitive skills – learning how to learn – which are important as the student becomes an independent learner. “Learning how to learn—that is, learning the metacognitive skills that will ultimately contribute to lifelong learning—begins with specific acts of self-assessment” (Brookhart, 2010). Helping students to develop skills as independent learners is important in a world that is undergoing intensive changes and requires people to be ‘always learning’ in order to be active and informed citizens in a connected global society.

Formative Assessment is not graded. It’s used to inform instruction, provide feedback about what student’s know and where learning gaps exist, and help students improve and grow. This reduces ‘grading anxiety’ that many students have as they focus on the grade they received and not on the feedback or how they can improve. FA helps to reduce anxiety about a ‘grade’ and provides students the opportunity to improve their work through an iterative process of feedback and self-assessment.

Formative and Summative Assessment

“Formative and summative assessment should both serve the same learning goals. This is how they are connected. The assessments students use as they develop, practice, and learn should be based on the same knowledge and skills they will ultimately demonstrate for a grade” (Brookhart, 2010). Formative Assessment provides students the opportunity to practice and improve without the pressure of attaching a grade to the work and prepares them for summative assessment.

Formative Assessment is part of the planning process and needs to be developed during the process of planning. By planning for FA, teachers shift their focus from planning activities for students to planning growth and feedback loops for students. The activity, whatever it might be, is part of the learning process which includes opportunities for students to demonstrate learning in a variety of ways and receive feedback for improvement before any form of summative assessment takes place.