In order to work on my understanding of formative assessment, I decided that a good place to start is with what I already know in order to see where I can go from there.
To that end, here are some things I know already about the topic:
- Formative Assessment describes a method of assessing student work with the goal of ongoing improvement in mind.
- It is meant to be a long term process, rather than a single response at the end of a unit
- It is closely tied to the backwards design for learning in which units and lessons are designed from the final goal back to the start with the intention of leading students clearly to their goals.
- Formative assessment should involve reporting to students’ parents in order to receive help from them in encouraging their children towards the students’ goals
- Formative Assessment can appear in many different forms
- It can be in the form of an oral conversation with the student, that is later recorded.
- It can be in the form of comments made on an assignment returned with instructions for revisions, or additional work to aid in practice
I am thankful to have had so much time in the last few years to focus on and break down the basic aspects of Formative Assessment. However, I am fully aware that there are many places where I want to increase my understanding. My last point about the many forms of Formative Assessment is specifically a place where I will focus.
For now, I will bring in some learning from the book “Outstanding Formative Assessment” by Shirley Clarke.
The first section of the book focuses on the setting up of a learning environment in which formative assessment will be effective. Clarke suggests investing time into fostering a space in which students are encouraged to maintain a growth mindset. This works in a loop with formative assessment, and is the student’s main way to cooperate in the improvement of their learning. If a student is open and ready to learn, then the teacher’s suggestions and feedback will be more readily received.
Additionally Clarke suggests involving students in the planning phase of instruction. This includes both the content of units as well as, importantly, the creation of criteria. Student involvement in the creation of criteria is essential to the learning of students after they have completed assignments. If students are fully aware, before beginning their work, of exactly what is expected of them, then they are more open to constructive feedback after completion. They can more clearly see in conjunction with their criteria, where they can improve and move forward with their learning.
So that is some base information on what Formative Assessment is. In the next post I will discuss the difference between Assessment FOR Learning and Assessment OF Learning.