Formative Assessment that Informs Instruction

Decorative: Formative assessment - when the chef tastes the soup; Summative assessment - when the guests tast the soup


"Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction" (pdf) outlines ten essential elements and three categories of formative assessment as well as four strategies and ten tools for formative assessment.

  • Included in the text but not below is also a chart of 14 things "Formative Assessment Do (and 14 that "Formative Assessment DO NOT").
  • This post ends with links to 100+ formative assessment activities under "See also."

A. 10 Essential Elements of Formative Assessment

"Formative assessment":

  • "Requires students to take responsibility for their own learning."
  • "Communicates clear, specific learning goals."
  • "Focuses on goals that represent valuable educational outcomes with applicability beyond the learning context."
  • "Identifies the student’s current knowledge/skills and the necessary steps for reaching the desired goals."
  • "Requires development of plans for attaining the desired goals."
  • "Encourages students to self-monitor progress toward the learning goals."
  • "Provides examples of learning goals including, when relevant, the specific grading criteria or rubrics that will be used to evaluate the student’s work."
  • "Provides frequent assessment, including peer and student self-assessment and assessment embedded within learning activities."
  • "Includes feedback that is non-evaluative, specific, timely, and related to the learning goals, and that provides opportunities for the student to revise and improve work products and deepen understandings."
  • "Promotes metacognition and reflection by students on their work."

B. 3 Types of Formative Assessment That "Contribute to the Learning Cycle"

  • "'[O]n-the-fly' (those that happen during a lesson)"
  • "'[P]lanned-for-interaction' (those decided before instruction)"
  • "'[C]urriculum-embedded'' (embedded in the curriculum and used to gather data at significant points during the learning process)"

C. 4 Tools and Strategies of Formative Assessment (each elaborated in the text)

1. Observations

  • Field Notes - "record[ed] ... descriptions of classroom interactions, avoiding judgment and interpretation until later"
  • Running Records and Miscue Analysis
  • Checklists and Observation Guides 

2. Conversations

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Conferences

3. Student Self-Evaluations

"Self-evaluations encourage students to monitor their own learning and learning needs and serve as an additional source of information on student learning " and "can take many forms":

  • Student-Led Conferences

4. Artifacts of Learning

"[T]eachers review data about individual students or groups of students for the purpose of planning future learning experiences. For example, teachers may":

  • "Collect a variety of sources of information on a single learner (case study) in order to identify patterns of understanding across the data set. Data may include samples of student work, notes based on classroom observations, input from other[s] ... as well as standardized assessment data."
  • "Review a class set of work samples or observations in order to group students for further instruction or to plan learning experiences for the entire group."
  • "Look back at a variety of points along a student’s learning journey ... to see patterns of growth and to identify important next steps."

D. See also

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