Posted on October 26, 2011, by Janet Malone
By Janet Malone, PLC at Workâ„˘ associate
â€śWhat does a good formative assessment look like?â€ť
â€śCan you please show us some examples?â€ť
These are the types of questions that often surface as collaborative teams in PLC schools delve into the work of developing common formative assessments.Â Ironically, the answer to these questions lies not in the assessment tool itself, but in how the tool and the information it generates are used.Â In other words, formative assessment is not a tool or an event, but a variety of strategies that involve acting on the assessment data to improve learning.
Laurie Shepard defines the characteristics of a good formative assessment as â€ś. . . an assessment carried out during the instructional process for the purpose of improving teaching or learning. . . What makes formative assessment formative is that it is immediately used to make adjustments so as to form new learning.â€ť (Shepard, 2008).
So, in answer to our original questions, teachers already have a multitude of potential good formative assessments in their toolboxes . . . quizzes, short written responses, classroom activities, and/or homework assignments.Â If the assessment is administered for the purpose of giving feedback to students and teachers in a risk-free (non-evaluative) setting and studentsÂ engage in additional practice for revising their learning prior to subsequent evaluation, the assessment qualifies as a good formative assessment.Â If, however, the assessment is administered, graded, and returned to students without opportunity for intervention, extension, and/or additional demonstration of learning, the assessment would fall in the category of not so good.
Research in recent years has consistently highlighted the power of formative assessment, or as it is often called, assessment for learning.Â In fact, Dylan Wiliam points out, â€śWhen implemented well, formative assessment can effectively double the speed of student learning.â€ť (Wiliam, 2007).Â Â Certainly, if formative assessment has the potential to double the speed of student learning, that would put it in the great category as a high impact strategy.Â Â What, then, are the conditions for great formative assessment?
Teams of teachers work interdependently to create common formative assessments by:
In summary, a goodâ€”or even better, greatâ€”formative assessment is not one that is purchased or looks a certain way.Â It is one that is used by teachers and students to enhance and increase learning.Â What, then, will you do to ensure that the formative assessments you are using can be considered great?
â€śFormative Assessmentâ€ť by Laurie Shepard in The future of assessment: Shaping teaching and learning (C. Dwyer, editor), New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. (p. 279-303)
â€śChanging Classroom Practiceâ€ť by Dylan Wiliam in Educational Leadership, Dec. 2007/Jan. 2008 (Vol. 65, #4, p. 36-41)
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