This topic sparked an interest in me during the past month as I was able to talk with several new teachers and ask them how they have used formative assessment to guide their instruction. I was a bit surprised with the lack of knowledge these new teachers had about formative assessment and began to wonder if we are using these assessments to the best of our ability in education.
Why Formative Assessments?
By definition formative assessments are any kind of assessment that helps you understand where students are in their knowledge and if they learned what was taught. An important question we should ask ourselves after content was taught is “Did the students learn it?” and “How do I know?” Using effective formative assessments will answer these questions and guide the direction our teaching needs to go for students. It is one of the keystones for providing “just right” instruction for students and always knowing what their needs are.
“The impact of monitoring on student learning is nearly linear. More monitoring,
more achievement. And effective monitoring will focus not just on test scores but
on the adult practices that led to the test scores.” – Douglas Reeves
A Shift in our Thinking…
However, this is a shift for some teachers because we are used to being in the mindset that assessment provides us with a measure of what students know. We teach it, we test it, we move on. But who is that good for? Who benefits? Is that good for all students? The answer is no. Sure, this model works for the top percentage of your class but what about the other 50-75 percent? Using formative assessments effectively requires us to view purpose of assessment differently. It is not an absolute to measure student proficiency, it is a means to telling us where we need to direct our teaching for our students.
What does that Look Like?
There are multiple formats that formative assessment can take. I included this link because the list is quite comprehensive and very helpful. Depending on what you are teaching and what you want to know from your students, there is an assessment listed that will give you the information you are looking for.
That is where my curiosity leads me today. What do high-quality formative assessments look like? How do you know they are effective? How do you use them? I would love it if readers could share a description of a formative assessment process they have found to be very powerful in their classroom.