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3 Easy Ways to Keep Polished Aluminum Shiny

5 best all-in-one printers for home use, 6 best fast chargers for the google pixel 8 and pixel 8 pro, how to enable or disable nsfw channels on discord, how to sue a homeowners association, how to connect bluetooth accessories to steam deck, 5 best electric blankets for a cozy nap, how to get notifications when someone posts on facebook, 7 ways to fix shopping list (grocery list) not working on iphone, 13 simple ways to balance your relationship and studies, creating formative and/or summative assessments with video.

formative assessment video

“What if assessment could be fun and engaging for students? What if it didn’t feel like ‘testing’ at all?” asks Dr. Nathan Lang-Raad in an article on using video for formative assessments . Instead of assigning written homework or having students take a quiz, teachers can ask students to create videos that demonstrate their learning on a topic.

A video is a very flexible method for assessing student learning. A video report on a social studies topic, for example, can incorporate a thesis statement, research from a variety of primary and secondary sources, the development of a logical argument, and a conclusion. The project can be completed alone or in a group, creating a collaborative learning environment. Students will immediately see the results of their work and be encouraged to revise, deepening their learning and improving their performance on the assignment. In addition, they can watch other students’ videos on the assignment and see that a topic can be handled in more than one way and that different conclusions can be reached. Most important, making and watching videos is fun and student enthusiasm will show through in their effort on the task and in the quality of their work.

Richland School District Two created a case study on the use of video in the classroom . The district found that the skills they focus on building in their students—communication, collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and creativity—are all involved in video production. This was why they sought to integrate video into the classroom. They were happy to discover that students who were afraid to talk in class could express themselves through a video and that many students were excited to share their videos with parents at home.

Dr. Lang-Raad suggests several benefits of video as an assessment tool :

  • In a traditional assessment such as a quiz, a student assumes the teacher is looking for a “right” answer, making the teacher the leader in the learning process. With a video assessment, the onus is on the student to structure their assignment in a way that demonstrates their learning. The student is in charge.
  • The open-ended aspect of a video encourages the student to generate more questions as their project progresses and to dig deeper into the subject matter they’re studying.
  • Videos can incorporate online conversations with people in other parts of the world, providing a primary source for assignments on topics covering a different geographic area or culture.
  • Videos are cool and easily shareable. This leads to a sense of satisfaction with the end product that is greater than that from finishing a written homework assignment or a test.

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Matthew Lynch

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Center for Standards, Assessment, and Accountability

Formative Assessment In Action

The Formative Assessment in Action Spotlight aims to provide educators with resources that support learning about the formative assessment process. The spotlight includes one-page excerpts highlighting key ideas in formative assessment, classroom videos that showcase formative assessment in action, and opportunities to deepen learning about formative assessment. Educators can use the opportunities to analyze others’ practice with an eye towards incorporating new learning into current instructional routines.

Learning about the Formative Assessment Process

formative assessment video

Video Practice with Formative Assessment

Below are two spotlight sections containing videos about Formative Assessment in Action. The section, Examples of the Elements in Action, showcases video examples of each formative assessment element implemented effectively in the lessons. The next section, Time to Investigate, includes opportunities to review several videos and analyze how each teacher integrates the formative assessment elements into her classroom practice. For every video, there is a brief summary of the content, plus a link to its Video Viewing Protocol. The protocol includes information about the teacher’s practice in relation to each element. These are not all encompassing descriptions. They offer a few observations about teacher and student actions intended to provide the seeds for thought and discussion. In each protocol, you can write down notes, including general observations and specific commendations/suggestions. If you’d like more information about formative assessment before you get into the videos, check out the descriptions of the formative assessment elements below.

Please note that on January 1st, 2020, the Teaching Channel switched to a subscription service for their content. CSAA is working to identify high-quality, publicly available alternatives to the Teaching Channel videos included in this Spotlight.

1. Examples of the Elements in Action

Watch these videos first. You will see examples of the elements being implemented effectively in a classroom situation. Using the Video Viewing Protocol for each one will deepen your understanding of each element.

Creative Process: Learning from Feedback

The teacher starts the lesson by teaching students a new rhythm through clapping, then asks them to create two bars of a composition using new and previously learned notes and rhythms. They work out their compositions using popsicle sticks (as notations) before writing it into their worksheet. Then students share their compositions with a peer, get and receive feedback, and then work together to combine their compositions. Each step builds on the step before with feedback built into each stage.

Click here for viewing protocol

Formative Assessment: Collaborative Discussions

In this lesson, the teacher gives clear direction to students to have a series of collaborative discussions with one another. Over the course of the lesson, students become increasingly aware of the need to ask more questions of one another. Students engage in a variety of discussions and acquire the skill of building on each other’s comments.

Roller Coaster Physics: STEM in Action

At each stage of the lesson, the teacher structures opportunities for students to draw on their previous experience designing and building roller coasters to inform their current engineering design work. This comes across in their many discussions, such as when they’re sharing past challenges and collaborating on creating a new design, e.g., one student states that the tape they used before to create friction was not very effective. Throughout the day’s lesson, students integrate their engineering work focused on “safety” with work focused on “fun.”

Students to Examine Craft Moves and Author’s Intent

In this lesson, the teacher states that the purpose of the day’s work is to raise the level of student writing by making strong and persuasive arguments. During the lesson, the students analyze a model paragraph in order to be able to transfer the author’s “moves” into their own writing. The degree to which students readily share the weaknesses in their writing and plans for improvement, demonstrate that the teacher has effectively enacted a positive classroom culture. The teacher also models this respect and value throughout the lesson in the way she interacts with the students, giving them frequent praise of where they are in their learning while also demonstrating her expectations that they will improve.

2. Time to Investigate

Continue with this spotlight section, where you will have the opportunity to review several videos and analyze the teachers’ formative assessment practice. Again, completing each Video Viewing Protocol will help you gain a better insight into the formative assessment process.

Primary Grade Videos

Counting Collections: Kindergarten

This is a video of kindergarten math instruction aligned to college and career ready standards. Students work in pairs to create collections of 5 or 10 objects and record their counting process. The teacher checks in with the different groups to hear their thinking and advance their learning, i.e., to begin thinking about grouping the “10s” into “100s”.

First Grade – Shared Reading Experience

This teacher’s learning goals are about making predictions and identifying problems in stories, and being able to read aloud in a storyteller’s voice. These are implied repeatedly throughout the lesson but not stated explicitly until the very end of the lesson when they review the work they’ve done in the lesson. This explicit review/statement of the lesson learning goals is with the intention of enabling students to use these practices when they read at home.

Using Learning Progressions – 1st grade

In this video, the teacher is working to get first graders to take ownership over their learning. To do this, she integrates technology into her teaching, using examples of text on an I-pad and involving students in assessing these with her. She gets students involved in revising their own work by using self-assessment tools to transfer and apply what they just learned. The lesson is aimed at moving students beyond first grade writing standards for informational writing, which expects students to apply some fact about the topic in addition to naming the topic and providing a sense of closure.

Formative Assessment: Understanding Fractions

In this lesson, students are working with geometric manipulatives to support their thinking and demonstrate their understandings. The teacher gives the students a problem to solve and sets it in a “real world” situation, e.g., a candy factory where people are placing orders. The teacher explains the importance of writing explanations to justify thinking, stating that “mathematicians communicate their mathematics.”

Whole Class Instruction in Opinion Writing

In this video of elementary school writing instruction, the teacher has students utilize what they learned when they previously created persuasive speeches to now write different kinds of opinion pieces. The teacher and students together analyze a written petition to Lego for author’s “moves” that they recognize and can use themselves in their own writing.

Using Learning Progressions – 4th grade

This video shows a teacher incorporating self-assessment into her lesson. The teacher is trying to move students toward CCSS 4.1 and 4.2 in reading literature, which refers to explaining specific details and examples from a text and determining a theme or central message. The teacher asks students to place their work along a writing learning progression where they think it best fits. Then students get feedback from one another on whether they believe it’s placed accurately along the progression. Students then develop new goals for themselves based on this feedback.

Preparation for Fraction Multiplication

In this lesson, students engage in discourse when they need to come to consensus on a solution to a word problem. In the process of coming to consensus, students explain their thinking, including their rationales. Other students need to provide counter arguments if they have different solutions and/or ask questions and comments about their peers’ solutions and thinking. This creates connected, turn-taking discourse where students are building on each other ideas (vs. just sharing stand-alone ideas). These discussions also provide a rich source of evidence of student thinking.

Secondary Grade Videos

Number Talk: 7th Grade Math: What’s the Savings?

In this lesson, students listen to one another’s ideas and ask clarifying questions. They also frequently work out ideas together to solve problems, such as suggesting strategies they can use such as guess and check. When students are working on solving the problem, the students work hard to understand each other’s thinking processes and strategies for solving the problem.

Cli ck here for viewing protocol

Conjecturing about Functions

In this video of middle school math instruction aligned to college and career ready standards, the teacher asks students to solve problems related to a set of functions. The teacher’s goal is for students to find the pattern among the set of functions and from that identify a math concept that is true for the set of functions and for any context.

Document-Based Questions: Warm and Cool Feedback

In this lesson, the students participate in in-depth discussions with one another based on analyses of each other’s writing. These discussions include describing what is working well in the writing, what needs to be strengthened, and helping come up with solutions to improve the writing. The teacher also engages in discussions with pairs of students, asking probing questions to advance student learning.

Modeling and Graphing Real World Situations

The teacher shows students graphs that have been created by other students in the previous lesson to demonstrate mathematical modeling. She asks them to explain why the graphs look the way they do, helping them to think critically. Then the teacher engages students in a mathematical modeling task and wants them to understand that events happening in the real world (e.g., balls being thrown in the air or a jug being filling with water) are related to math.

Formative Assessment: Understanding Congruence

In this lesson, the teacher states that students have previously learned about rigid motion and asks a few students to explain their understanding in the whole group. The teacher says that for the day’s lesson, students will be using rigid motion to prove that two triangles are congruent.

Circuit Training for High School Students

This lesson is structured so that after the initial instructions and modeling, students do a series of exercises, repeating the workout circuit as many times as they can before the lesson is over. Each exercise is unique to the others. While the lesson isn’t progressive in terms of each task building on the other, the students participate in a wide enough range of activities that taken together, they appear to exercise all major muscle groups while sustaining a cardio workout.

Graffiti: A Digital Identity

In this lesson, the teacher asks students to consider various design elements when coming up with their graffiti tags and to create a digital version of it (during which they need to learn elements of the software, Illustrator). The teacher says that students don’t need to use all the design strategies in their tags but need to be able to provide evidence that they are thinking about the various strategies. In this way, students are using both creative and critical thinking in their design work. Also, students are asked to select the design strategies in order to represent their digital identities. This work employs all students’ cognitive abilities and skills as they consider and apply aesthetics and meaning together.

Analyzing Texts with Storyboards

In this lesson, the teacher tells students that they will be analyzing a text from the perspective of a reality TV producer. This provides a purpose for the task and gives it relevancy (e.g., students aren’t just looking for details in the text to support a message for its own sake). She also connects this work to longer term goals in her address to the audience, saying that she expects students to be able to use/transfer their newly acquired reading disposition (of rereading texts for various levels of meaning) when they move on to other grade level texts.

What is Formative Assessment?

Formative assessment is an on-going assessment process integrated into instruction. In formative assessment, teachers gather and respond to evidence of student learning in relation to the learning goals during the course of instruction. This approach to instruction supports deep learning of CCRS. It is described here in terms of four formative assessment elements.

Learning Goals and Success Criteria

Learning Goals are lesson-sized learning expectations for students (i.e., understandings or skills) and Success Criteria describe how students will demonstrate their learning (i.e., what students say, do, make, or write). Students and teachers use the Success Criteria to determine how close students are to meeting the Learning Goals.

Learn more >

Eliciting and Interpreting Evidence

Eliciting Evidence involves planning learning situations where students can both develop and demonstrate what they know. Teachers collect evidence of learning (e.g., by observing, listening, asking questions, reviewing work) and make inferences (Interpreting Evidence) about student learning progress in relation to the Success Criteria.

Taking Pedagogical Action

Based on teachers’ Interpreting Evidence, they take pedagogical action in the moment, or soon after. This can include providing feedback, redirecting the learning experience, or continuing as planned.

Student Self and Peer Assessment

Students also participate in this process, through assessment. Knowing the Learning Goals, they assess themselves (Self Assessment) and their peers (Peer Assessment) in relation to the Success Criteria. Students then take action based on this assessment. Self and Peer Assessment promotes metacognition, self-directed learning, and further tailors the learning experience to match students where they are.

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What Is Formative Assessment and How Should Teachers Use It?

Check student progress as they learn, and adapt to their needs.

What is Formative Assessment? #buzzwordsexplained

Assessments are a regular part of the learning process, giving both teachers and students a chance to measure their progress. There are several common types of assessments, including pre-assessment (diagnostic) and post-assessment (summative). Some educators, though, argue that the most important of all are formative assessments. So, what is formative assessment, and how can you use it effectively with your students? Read on to find out.

What is formative assessment?

Frayer model describing characteristics of formative assessment

Source: KNILT

Formative assessment takes place while learning is still happening. In other words, teachers use formative assessment to gauge student progress throughout a lesson or activity. This can take many forms (see below), depending on the teacher, subject, and learning environment. Here are some key characteristics of this type of assessment:

Low-Stakes (or No-Stakes)

Most formative assessments aren’t graded, or at least aren’t used in calculating student grades at the end of the grading period. Instead, they’re part of the daily give-and-take between teachers and students. They’re often quick and used immediately after teaching a specific objective.

Planned and Part of the Lesson

Rather than just being quick check-for-understanding questions many teachers ask on the fly, formative assessments are built into a lesson or activity. Teachers consider the skills or knowledge they want to check on, and use one of many methods to gather information on student progress. Students can also use formative assessments among themselves for self-assessment and peer feedback.

Used to Make Adjustments to Teaching Plans

After gathering student feedback, teachers use that feedback to make adjustments to their lessons or activities as needed. Students who self-assess then know what areas they still need help with and can ask for assistance.

How is formative assessment different from other assessments?

Chart comparing formative and summative assessment

Source: Helpful Professor

There are three general types of assessment: diagnostic, formative, and summative. Diagnostic assessments are used before learning to determine what students already do and do not know. Think pre-tests and other activities students attempt at the beginning of a unit. Teachers may use these to make some adjustments to their planned lessons, skipping or just recapping what students already know.

Diagnostic assessments are the opposite of summative assessments, which are used at the end of a unit or lesson to determine what students have learned. By comparing diagnostic and summative assessments, teachers and learners can get a clearer picture of how much progress they’ve made.

Formative assessments take place during instruction. They’re used throughout the learning process and help teachers make on-the-go adjustments to instruction and activities as needed.

Why is formative assessment important in the classroom?

These assessments give teachers and students a chance to be sure that meaningful learning is really happening. Teachers can try new methods and gauge their effectiveness. Students can experiment with different learning activities, without fear that they’ll be punished for failure. As Chase Nordengren of the NWEA puts it :

“Formative assessment is a critical tool for educators looking to unlock in-depth information on student learning in a world of change. Rather than focusing on a specific test, formative assessment focuses on practices teachers undertake during learning that provide information on student progress toward learning outcomes.”

It’s all about increasing your ability to connect with students and make their learning more effective and meaningful.

What are some examples of formative assessment?

Chart showing what formative assessment is and what it isn't

Source: Writing City

There are so many ways teachers can use formative assessments in the classroom! We’ve highlighted a few perennial favorites, but you can find a big list of 25 creative and effective formative assessments options here .

Exit Tickets

At the end of a lesson or class, pose a question for students to answer before they leave. They can answer using a sticky note, online form, or digital tool.

Kahoot Quizzes

Kids and teachers adore Kahoot! Kids enjoy the gamified fun, while teachers appreciate the ability to analyze the data later to see which topics students understand well and which need more time.

We love Flip (formerly Flipgrid) for helping teachers connect with students who hate speaking up in class. This innovative (and free!) tech tool lets students post selfie videos in response to teacher prompts. Kids can view each other’s videos, commenting and continuing the conversation in a low-key way.

What is your favorite way to use formative assessments in the classroom? Come exchange ideas in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .

Plus, check out the best tech tools for student assessment ..

Wondering what formative assessment is and how to use it in the classroom? Learn about this ongoing form of evaluation here.

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Collage of types of assessments in education, including formative and summative

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ICAS Assessments

Formative assessments: the ultimate guide for teachers

  • Categories Blog
  • Date February 14, 2024

teacher using formative assessments

K-12 education is a construction process where students’ skills and knowledge are gradually built up, with every preceding “block” essential to keep on building.

As a teacher, it’s your job to ensure that your students have the core knowledge they need to keep advancing through their education. You need a daily understanding of their current skills and knowledge so that you can accurately gauge their progression, and decide what to teach them next.

One of the most effective, proven ways to do this is with formative assessments (OECD, 2008). 1 They’re a crucial tool in your teaching kit, helping you to provide quality education to students.

Table of contents

  • What are formative assessments?
  • Evidence that formative assessment works
  • Formative assessment examples / types
  • Formative assessment strategies for your school and classroom

1. What are formative assessments?

Formative assessments are regular low-stakes tests that help you gauge students’ understanding. They are “dipsticks” where you can quickly check learning as you might quickly check the oil in your car, allowing you to adapt your teaching and fill knowledge gaps while learning is still taking place.

Quizzes are a common example of formative assessments. They’re quick to create, complete, and mark, and give you a good impression of students’ understanding of the content and their progress for the unit. You can see which questions and topics they are struggling with, re-teach them, and then re-test – a rapid feedback and improvement cycle that boosts student outcomes and moves them along their learning journeys.

formative assessment feedback cycle

You can see how this differs from summative assessments like end-of-year exams. These are one-off tests used to evaluate student understanding after learning has finished, with no opportunity to improve. Their purpose is to grade. But with formative assessments, getting the right answers isn’t important because that isn’t the objective. Instead, the purpose is to provide you with continuous, fast “readings” of student progress which you use to adapt your teaching and advance their learning. Summative assessments are to grade, and formative assessments are to direct .

As you can imagine, this sets entirely different tones for the two types of assessment. Summative tests can be high-stakes with real consequences that shape students’ future opportunities. This makes them understandably anxious, which can significantly affect their performance (Embse et al., 2018). 2 Formative assessments, on the other hand, are low-stakes, light-touch tests that are (ideally) designed to be fun and engaging, and to boost learning outcomes (OECD, 2008). 5 Formative assessments help to improve summative assessment scores/grades (and more importantly, their education), but this doesn’t work the other way around.

To make our position clear: both types of assessment have an important place in education. They just have different purposes and effects on students. If you’d like a more detailed comparison of these two types of assessment, please check out our article here .

How formative assessments help your teaching

male teacher high-fiving during formative assessment

“Formative assessment – while not a “silver bullet” that can solve all educational challenges – offers a powerful means for meeting goals for high-performance, high-equity of student outcomes, and for providing students with knowledge and skills for lifelong learning.” 1


In essence, formative assessments help you answer three key questions:

  • Are students learning what they need to learn?
  • Are students learning at a steady pace?
  • What should be taught next?

The answers to these questions form an objective appraisal of your current teaching strategies and lesson plans, providing clues on what needs to change. This may include the following and more:

  • Change of content – formative assessments reveal student understanding, which includes any learning gaps or misconceptions they may have. With this information, you can adjust the content being taught to ensure they are learning what they need.
  • Refine learning intentions – when you have a strong understanding of your students’ knowledge and skills, you’re able to write more precise learning intentions in your lesson plans, and by extension, better plans overall that accurately address students’ needs.
  • Group students based on ability – formative assessments are usually given to entire classes, which reveals students’ both individually, and as a whole. If assessment results reveal distinct groupings of students based on their knowledge and skill, and you have the capacity to group them in your class and set unique work, that’s a much more inclusive way to teach and likely to result in better learning outcomes. More broadly, this information also helps you form separate support classes or Gifted and Talented classes.
  • Change frequency of assessment – if you’ve previously identified knowledge gaps, you’ll want to re-assess after learning to ensure they’re filled. While formative assessment should be a regular occurrence in your class, the frequency should change depending on the results and other feedback you get from students.

Formative assessments in action – a quick example

“Assessment is the bridge between teaching and learning. It’s only by assessment that you know what has been taught, has been learned.” 3

– Dylan Wiliam, formative assessment expert

To give you an example of formative assessments in action, let’s say you’re a Year 8 Science teacher starting a new term with students, and before proceeding with the content assigned to this term, you want to check their understanding to ensure they’ve mastered the prerequisite content, allowing you to correctly build on their knowledge.

As part of this term, students are extending their knowledge of biological sciences. So you ask them to take five minutes to create individual mind maps of everything they remember about cells – a brain dump of the content they have already been taught last term. Walking around the class, you can see maps that contain organelles, membranes, nuclei, and even little drawings of cell structures. Some students have filled their A4 sheet and others have barely touched it (mental note added). But overall, your students have covered the core concepts they learned last year.

To validate this information, you’d like them to elaborate on their mind maps to ensure they actually understand (rather than just remember) the concepts, so you write a few of the key ideas on the board and ask who would like to explain it. They seem to have a good grasp of membranes and nuclei, but even with plenty of hints, nobody can accurately describe what organelles do, or how the cells of plants and animals differ. You’ve identified two clear topics that need some refreshing, which you can either teach immediately or add to your next lesson plan.

These formative assessments may have taken no longer than 10 minutes. Of course, there needs to be a good balance between assessment and instruction, but that’s the beauty of formative assessments: they are quick and sharp and provide you with objective, real-world data that effectively directs your teaching. By incorporating formative assessments into your day-to-day teaching, you have vital feedback on student learning which you can use to identify and fill their knowledge gaps, build on their knowledge, and set them up for success.

Formative assessments help students become self-learners

class working together on formative assessments

Formative assessments have another effect on students that can improve their education and lives immeasurably: they help them become empowered self-learners (Clark, 2012). 3

This happens for two reasons:

They learn self-evaluation techniques

Many formative assessments have processes in which students assess their own work or the work of their peers. Rubrics are a good example. You can give students a marking rubric that allows them to assess their classmates’ abilities at reading aloud, as per below:

“By learning how to evaluate their own work, students develop the crucial meta-cognitive skills they need to progress by themselves.”

By using this rubric as a guide, they can score their classmates on volume, fluency, and clarity, and in the process, they also learn how to assess their own skills and pinpoint areas of weakness.

Informal debates are another example. You can create small groups of students and ask them to debate an issue in which they express their opinions, back them up with evidence, and listen to why their classmates agree or disagree. The conversations help them discover potential misconceptions or logical flaws, again teaching them (through modelling) how to evaluate such things by themselves.

By learning how to evaluate their own work, students develop the crucial meta-cognitive skills they need to progress by themselves. It’s giving them the proverbial fishing rod instead of a fish. They learn how to reflect, critique, review, and mark their own work, giving them a firm grip on their own learning and accelerating them to speeds far beyond what teachers can achieve by themselves. This leads to greater self-efficacy (Panadero et all., 2017) 4 and success.

They’re interactive and social

Formative assessments are highly varied, interactive tasks that students engage with during class. For most students, because the assessments are hands-on activities that require their attention, this makes them more interesting than standard instruction from the teacher. Students often become enthusiastically engaged in their learning, which creates a sense of agency and responsibility for their education. When combined with learning goals, this can be a powerful tool for improving outcomes.

Similarly, formative assessments can be co-operative social activities where students are encouraged to interact with their classmates and teachers. They might be having conversations with each other, validating their knowledge before and after learning, self-assessing using proven techniques, and many other activities (see our full list of assessment examples below) in which they are active and involved. As socially-driven creatures, this can turn your students’ learning from dull chores into genuinely fun experiences where they build friendships along the way.

2. Evidence that formative assessment works

student celebrating in front of laptop

“Teaching which incorporates formative assessment has helped to raise levels of student achievement, and has better enabled teachers to meet the needs of increasingly diverse student populations, helping to close gaps in equity of student outcomes.” 1

Formative assessments have been studied extensively, and show sweeping improvements for learning outcomes (OECD, 2008). 1

A comprehensive report on formative assessment by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), backed up by numerous studies, found the practice to be one of the most important interventions for promoting high [student] performance ever studied (OECD, 2008). 1 It’s the equivalent of taking students’ scores in an average performing country and lifting them into the top five best performing countries (Beaton et al., 1996, Black and Wiliam, 1998) 5,6 .

The OECD report shows that formative assessments:

  • Make education more equitable . They lift the performance of every single student, including those who are underachieving.
  • Improve school attendance . Formative assessments tend to be fun and engaging for students, which makes school much more enjoyable and reduces absence rates.
  • Help students retain what they’ve learned. Assessments tap into the “testing effect” – a phenomenon in which the act of testing also boosts learning. Trying to recall information from memory is a highly effective way to learn (Brown et al., 2014). 9
  • Help students become self-learners . They are more involved and engaged in the learning process itself, discovering the mechanics behind learning and self-evaluation and how they can do it themselves.
  • Help to clarify misconceptions. These can be immediately corrected during learning, before they are consolidated into long-term memories during sleep (Klinzing, Niethard and Born, 2019). 11

Aside from the OECD report, there are numerous studies where formative assessment has proven its worth. A 2021 meta-analysis of 32 studies found that formative assessments boosted learning outcomes considerably (Karaman, 2021). 11 For the core foundational skill of Writing, another meta-analysis of formative assessment experiments found feedback to be a crucial part of the process. When teachers and peers gave feedback, and students self-evaluated their own work, writing quality was enhanced (Graham et al., 2015). 7

Another study found formative assessment to have a positive influence on literacy as well as maths and the arts. Helping students to self-assess provided one of the biggest benefits, as did providing written feedback on quizzes (Lee et al., 2020). 8 Feedback has proven to be a crucial part of effective formative assessment, and we cover this in more detail below. For Science, high school biology teachers who completed a professional development program on formative assessment saw their abilities increase for key areas such as interpreting student ideas, eliciting questions and providing feedback (Furtak, et all., 2016). 7

Finally, in a random sample of 22 Swedish Year 4 Mathematics teachers, researchers asked them to participate in a professional development program on formative assessment. After implementing their knowledge in their respective classes, their students significantly outperformed others (Andersson, Palm, 2016). 10

We could go on. There’s so much evidence of the efficacy of formative assessment. It’s amazing to think that such drastic improvements can be made by introducing effective formative assessments into your classrooms (we talk more about effective strategies below).

3. Formative assessment examples / types and how they work

Formative assessments are extremely diverse. They range from generic to subject/content-specific, allowing you to assess knowledge and skills in a variety of ways, and cover the full breadth of K-12. You can pick and choose which formative assessments suit your students based on their age and the covered content.

Their variety and spontaneity can make learning much more fun for students of all ages. These are some of the more common formative assessment examples you’ll find in schools across the world.

sounds and syllables quiz formative assessment

Age group: all

Quizzes are one of the most popular types of formative assessment, and for good reason: they’re fun, quick to create and mark, and give you a great indication of students’ general knowledge, learning gaps and possible misconceptions for a topic. They can be given as:

  • Diagnostic pre-tests before starting a new unit
  • Mid-unit checkups to determine whether learning is going according to plan
  • Evaluative tests that check learning before the next unit starts
  • Start or end of lesson check-ups to quickly assess learning

Quizzes typically contain multiple-choice questions , which make them nice and quick to mark. But they can take other forms if needed. You can also incorporate directive feedback into each quiz’s results to show students what they might do to improve.

Discussion boards

discussion board formative assessment

With discussion boards, students write what they know about a topic on the whiteboard. This could be as a mind map, graffiti wall, or another format, with students writing short words or phrases, full sentences, or even drawing pictures. It’s a brain-dump of sorts that helps you understand students’ depth of knowledge for a topic, and any potential learning gaps or misconceptions you need to address.

brain dump mind map formative assessment

Brain dumps are the same as discussion boards but are completed on paper or screens, either individually or in small groups. Students write everything they know about a topic in the format they prefer, which gives you an idea of their knowledge for the topic.

Traffic light system

With the traffic light system, each student is given three coloured cards – one red, one orange and one green – which they need to hold up in response to a statement. Red is disagree, orange is unsure, and green is agree. You might ask them whether 10 times 10 is 200, whether day and night is created by the moon, or whether the word “running” is a verb.

When students hold their cards up, you get a visual gauge of how many students answered correctly. It’s another super-quick, fun formative assessment for younger students.

Questions / surveys

male teacher surveys questions class

These are the simplest formative test of all: you ask questions to the class and assess their answers on the spot. They’re a staple of teaching around the world because they give you an ultra-fast idea of what your students know about the content already taught, so that you can refresh their memories if needed. You’ll be able to gauge their knowledge from the numbers of hands raised and the quality of answers (keeping in mind the general shyness of that particular class).

Rubrics / self-evaluation

Age group: Years 3 to 10

When students learn how to assess their own work, they’re on the road to becoming self-learners who can develop a fully-fledged love of learning. Rubrics are a formative assessment that helps them on this path. They’re a simple marking criteria that students can apply to their own (or their classmates’) work to judge their performance, and what improvements they might need to make.

As already touched on previously, an example is the reading rubric shown below. Students can listen to their classmates read aloud, give them a score for each skill, and then discuss why they gave them afterwards. The rubric is one of many tools that students can use to self-evaluate and become enthusiastic independent learners.

kwl chart formative assessment

KWL charts are a formative assessment that prepare your students for what they’re going to learn, get them invested in their own learning, and help them evaluate whether learning was successful.

Three columns are drawn on the board in class, from left to right:

  • What I know
  • What I want to know
  • What I learned

For the content being taught in today’s class, students are invited to write about what they know about it, and what they want to know about it. They complete the “what I learned” third column at the end of class, showing them whether they achieved their desires/objectives. This is another simple, effective way for students to assess their own learning.

You can include an additional section if you wish – how will you learn it (which makes it KWHL). This encourages students to think about how to research and discover the information.


student working on think pair share formative assessment

Age group: Years 1 to 9

With Think-Pair-Share, students write down their responses to a question and then discuss their answers with a partner. You walk around the room and listen to their discussions, to gauge their level of understanding of the topic. Finally, they share their answers with the class, which encourages them to reflect on the accuracy and logic of their own.

See, Think, Wonder

formative assessment video

Age group: Years 1 to 5

See, Think, Wonder is a formative assessment that stimulates students’ curiosities and really gets them thinking about an image. They are given a photograph or picture and sheets with three columns that must be filled out:

  • See – they describe what they see using descriptive language
  • Think – they describe what they think is going on with the image
  • Wonder – they write anything they’re wondering about the image

The task shows you the quality of their writing, their interpretation skills, their creativity, the accuracy of their observations, and more. Once done they can discuss their answers with students at their table, which encourages teamwork, or read them to the entire class.

Thumbs up or down

students thumbs up or thumbs down

This is another quick and easy assessment that reveals general misconceptions. You offer a statement and ask them to give a thumbs up if they agree, and a thumbs down if they disagree. By judging the accuracy of their answers, you’ll know whether common misconceptions are present and resolve them if so.

For the statements, it can be a good idea to use any that your prior students have struggled with in the past.

Hot seat questioning

Hot seat questioning is an assessment that makes questions a little more fun. Anonymous questions are placed on a selection of seats, typically in front of class, and students are invited to select a seat, read the question aloud, and then try to answer. The rest of the class are encouraged to discuss the students’ answer and provide their own if appropriate.

The questions can vary in difficulty depending on the subject and year level. It can be an engaging, fun way to assess student learning and stimulate discussion.

Entry & exit slips

entry exit slips

Age group: Years 1 to 6

Entry and exit slips are a simple form of pre- and post-tests, helping you understand whether content was successfully learned. Students fill out an entry slip with a question like “How does heat transfer?” and then an exit slip with the same question. This helps them to compare their knowledge before and after the lesson, which can be extremely satisfying and motivating. You can also check their answers for accuracy once the lesson is over and discover learning gaps or misconceptions that need to be addressed.

One-minute papers

At the end of the lesson, students are given a minute to answer a question that summarises what has been learned. For example: how does hardware and software allow people to interact with computers?

After quickly reviewing their papers, you’ll have a sense of how well they’ve remembered and understood the content, and whether you need to go over it again in the next lesson.

The limited time given to complete this task can make it stressful for some students, which impairs its accuracy. You can relax every student by telling them they have a minute, but that they can also take some extra time if they need.

Muddiest point

female teacher helping student with muddiest point

With the muddiest point assessment, students are asked to write down what they were most confused about after a lecture or other activity. You can select random students to discuss their answers with the class, have them talk about their answers between themselves, or review their answers once the class is over. If you notice common confusions/misunderstandings, you’ll want to address them in a future lesson.

Informal debates

classroom debate formative assessment

Age group: Years 5 to 12

Informal debates between groups of two or more students can be a great way to gauge their understanding of a topic. You can assign each group member a position in the debate, ask them to present evidence of their viewpoints to each other, and have them respond in turn. It works best for more “subjective” subjects that can lack concrete explanations or viewpoints, like literature, the arts, or social sciences.

This assessment tool really taps into students higher-order thinking skills, with each side bringing their arguments, supportive reasoning and passion to the conversation.  

Anticipation guides

Age group: Years 3 to 9

Anticipation guides are a tool that help you discover misconceptions for students. You present them with a statement like “Products have minimal impact on the earth’s environment,” and ask them write down whether they agree with the statement before the lesson begins. Once the lesson is over, you ask them to respond to the same question.

Their answers will tell you whether they have absorbed your instruction, and can also vividly demonstrate the value of teaching to them – “in the past hour I’ve learned something new and important!”

students pulling scary faces drama

Kids love moving their bodies, and you can use this to your advantage by asking them to “act out” certain processes in class. For example, if you want to know whether they’ve understood how gas, liquids, and solids behave differently, you can clear a space and ask them to (safely) demonstrate how they might move if they were transformed into one of these states. Or you can ask them to form expressions for how a character might feel in a story.

This exercise is not only great fun (especially for younger children), it also communicates their understanding to you.

4. Formative assessment strategies for your school and classroom

Now that we’ve covered the what and why of formative assessment, it’s time to talk about some actual strategies that you can use to implement them at your school and execute them to a high standard.

Set up a formative assessment framework

“A framework will make your formative assessments structured, purposeful, frequent, and at less risk of being dropped in favour of ‘teaching to the tests’.”

Some teachers are pressured to achieve good grades on high-visibility summative assessments, and this can come at the cost of fewer formative assessments that actually improve student outcomes (OECD, 2008). 1

So it’s crucial to create a formative assessment framework that prioritises the tests, especially if they are regularly dropped in favour of summative testing. A framework will make your formative assessments structured, purposeful, frequent, and at less risk of being dropped in favour of “teaching to the tests,” especially if they are endorsed by the school leaders.

Thankfully, the OECD has completed extensive research on formative assessments , with real case studies on teachers who have successfully made them a part of their teaching and achieved strong learning outcomes for their students. These are some of their suggestions that can form the basis of your framework, adapted and summarised:

Establish a classroom culture that encourages interaction through formative assessments

students working on robot classroom culture

Interaction is a big part of formative assessment. Students may find themselves thrusting their thumbs in the air, holding up coloured paper, drawing mind maps, having debates and more. These hands-on, collaborative types of assessment are not only more engaging for students, but it’s showing them that learning can (and should) be fun – even for the teenagers!

Make formative assessments an integral part of your classroom culture. Factor them into your lesson plans and get every student involved. Demonstrate that the tasks themselves are important because they teach them to become more self-aware, more empathetic and cooperative with their classmates, more able to make decisions, and better equipped to assess their own work. Show them, over and over, that formative assessments are not necessarily about getting a top score or beating their classmates. They’re about carving out a path for your teaching while giving them the tools they need to become fully-fledged, self-learners. Get parents involved too and try to convince them of the value of formative assessment – it should be an easy sale!

There is no such thing as “failure” with formative assessments, and with every new one completed, students will start to realise this and become more confident and happier to take risks.

Create challenging learning goals for students and track their progress, together

Goal-setting is a long proven technique for achieving better outcomes, both inside and outside the classroom. Setting challenging goals has shown to improve task performance, boost work output, and regulate choices in favour of completing the goal (Locke et al., 1968). 12

In the context of formative assessments, goals should relate to mastery, not marks. Your students may create learning goals to improve their reading comprehension, to master their multiplication tables, or to run simple science experiments with clear predictions, conclusions and evaluations. With clear goals that have explicit, easy-to-understand success criteria, lessons can become more meaningful and students may find themselves more engaged in their learning – there’s a purpose and objective to what they’re doing. Rather than achieving an A+, it’s about becoming a more capable person. This can lead to greater intrinsic motivation, improved self-esteem, and a number of other benefits (OECD, 2008). 1

Work with your students to set learning goals that are personally meaningful to them. Have them print them off and stick them to their workbooks. For related lessons where learning goals are shared among students, ask them to quickly read their goals at the start of the lesson, and then when the lesson is over, get them to spend 30 seconds reflecting on their progress. Did they move a little closer? What might they do better next time? This is self-learning in action, and gives them the confidence and autonomy to become lifelong learners.

Use varied formative assessment methods to meet diverse student needs

Your students are all fantastically unique. Some thrive when asked to complete quizzes. Others enjoy reflecting on what they’ve learned. Some love going up to the board and writing or drawing what they know about something.

student looking at tablet in library

To cater to the various needs and preferences of your students, it pays to incorporate a variety of formative assessment methods into your day-to-day teaching. This not only makes things more fun for your students, it provides you with a broader, more accurate assessment of their skills and knowledge.

Involve students in the learning process

As previously discussed, one of the most incredible things about formative assessments is that they encourage students to become actively involved in their own education, teaching them self-learning strategies they can use to grow all by themselves. These “metacognitive” strategies are a fundamental soft skill that can make a big difference to their success at school and beyond.

Try to incorporate a good portion of formative assessments that teach students the value of learning and show them how to assess their own work. These include rubrics, KWL charts, entry/exit tickets and more.

Give feedback rather than marks

Marks are important to summative tests like exams, but when it comes to formative assessments, feedback is the name of the game. It’s essential for helping students self-learn. A mark is a solitary number that tells them almost nothing; high-quality feedback is rich, specific information that tells them where to go next. It can help students to feel more motivated, better equipped, and more confident, which can almost double their growth over the course of a year (Hattie and Temperley, 2007) 13 .

When offering feedback for formative assessments, try to ensure that it is:

  • Timely – imagine if a driving instructor only provided suggestions after you’d got out of the car? They’d be nowhere near as effective. Our short-term memories are exactly that – short – and we are much more capable of actioning feedback if it’s delivered immediately when the tasks are still fresh in our minds. Work with your students’ short-term memories, not against them.
  • Specific and constructive – what specifically did the student fail at, and how can they remedy the problem themselves? That’s what your feedback should focus on. Students need to know what they did wrong and what actionable steps they can take to fix it: key ingredients for self-learning. It may be that they can’t do this by themselves because they don’t know the content well enough, in which case it needs to be re-taught.
  • Motivational – starting feedback by acknowledging students’ correct answers can make them more receptive to fixing their mistakes / filling their learning gaps. By telling them they’ve done well for certain questions, it can motivate them to do well for every A pat on the back can do wonders! You can also highlight what they’ve improved on since their last assessment, helping them to see that they’re progressing towards their learning goals.
  • Where am I going?
  • How am I going?
  • Where to next?

female teacher gives feedback to male student

When providing formative assessment feedback to students, it can be based on four different things:

  • The activity – how well the task was understood or performed.
  • The learning process – what the student needs to do to complete the task.
  • Managing their learning – how the student might need to plan or self-monitor.
  • Qualities – personal qualities that the student shows, like an aptitude for arithmetic.

And finally, if providing praise as part of your feedback, it goes without saying that you should never focus on their intelligence or natural abilities. It creates a fixed mindset that can really hinder their learning. 14 Instead, try to praise their effort.

Teach students how to assess their own work

Self-assessment is a key part of self-learning – a process that can work like high-powered fertiliser for students’ growth. When students are taught how to self-assess, they better understand how their answers are related to their learning goals, they’re invited to reflect on their efforts, and most importantly, they can identify what they need to do to produce better quality work.

As their teacher, you use pre-defined success criteria to assess the accuracy of their work, and they can use the very same criteria to assess themselves and their peers. As you complete the different types of formative assessment, demonstrate how you use the templates, checklists, or rubrics to mark their work, and how it shapes the judgment of what is considered high-quality. Give them samples of exemplary work and explain why it’s so good. Show them, again and again, how you use the criteria to discover potential gaps in their learning and the actions that might be taken to fill them. By modelling your own assessment and feedback processes, you help them become their own teachers.

When they get better at this important skill, students can spend time marking, discussing, critiquing and demystifying their assessment results, blossoming into self-directed learners who can take ownership of their education. You’re showing them that self-assessment is a vital part of the learning process and providing them with the tools they need to achieve great things.

The NSW Government provide some more extensive examples of how to teach students self-assessment techniques , which we highly recommend reading.

Vary formative assessments to meet students’ diverse needs

Student diversity is one of the biggest challenges to providing great education, and this extends to formative assessment. With so many different learning styles, preferences, levels of progress and subject matter, you’ll need to select a variety of assessment types to suit their needs. A quiz might make sense for one subject and group of students, an informal debate for another, KWL charts for younger children, etc. It all comes down to what you think might work best for the group and the content, which takes time and patience to figure out.

Practice and experimentation is key. In time, you’ll be a formative assessment master.

Always test for misconceptions before starting a new unit

student with hand up testing misconceptions

Education is a series of building blocks, and if one of those blocks is the wrong size, it compromises the entire structure. Knowledge cannot be built upon if incorrect. If students have misunderstood how basic fractions work, they’re not going to be able to understand equivalent fractions later on.

Thankfully, formative assessments are ideal for diagnosing these kinds of misconceptions . Pretty much any formative assessment can be diagnostic. Whether you’re using surveys, hot seat questioning, or another type of assessment, you’ll quickly discover common misconceptions and remedy them before they can hamper students’ learning later on. And the best time to do this is before starting a new unit, when they’re about to learn fresh content. It’s the perfect time to repair those misshapen blocks of knowledge from the previous unit so you can confidently keep building.

Make students feel safe

Formative assessment can be engaging and highly interactive, so students need to participate for it to work. But this won’t happen unless they feel safe.

Creating a safe learning environment is a big topic, but here are some effective tips you can use to make students feel secure in your classroom, and coax each of them out of their shells:

  • Lay down ground rules – make it absolutely clear that there will be no laughing, teasing, or name calling in class, and that transgressions will be punished. These kinds of hurtful interactions can be burned into students’ memories and really hold them back. Make your class a judgment-free zone and enforce a strict zero-bullying policy.
  • Be trustworthy – consistently treat your students with kindness, respect and a “fair but firm” attitude, and you’ll quickly win their trust. They’ll feel much safer to participate when they know the authority in the room has their back. This is especially important for the students who are particularly withdrawn or emotional, and may have a turbulent life at home. Your classroom could become their precious safe place.
  • Explain the importance of mistakes – every mistake is an opportunity for the student to recognise the error, figure out where they went wrong, and do it right next time. There’s no growth without mistakes – they’re a sign that your students are pushing themselves!
  • Incorporate brief social-emotional activities – brief activities like daily greetings, checking in with emotions and gratitude lists can help your students express their emotions to their peers, build stronger empathy skills, and feel emotionally safe in your class.
  • Post their work around the class – most of us love to be celebrated for our achievements, and you can do this for your students by posting their great work on the classroom’s walls. It’s a visual reminder that they are skilled and capable.
  • Explain why you’re giving an assessment – for formative assessments that can feel high-stakes, like quizzes or one-minute papers, briefly explain why it’s important, and remind them that there are no consequences for wrong answers.
  • OECD/CERI, Assessment for Learning Formative Assessment , OECD
  • Nathaniel von der Embse, Dane Jester, Devlina Roy, James Post, 2018, Test anxiety effects, predictors, and correlates: A 30-year meta-analytic review , Journal of Affective Disorders
  • Ian Clark, 2012, Formative Assessment: Assessment Is for Self-regulated Learning , Educational Psychology Review
  • Ernesto Panadero, Anders Jonsson, Juan Botella, 2017, Effects of self-assessment on self-regulated learning and self-efficacy: Four meta-analyses , Educational Research Review
  • Beaton, A.E. et al. (1996), Mathematics Achievement in the Middle School Years, Boston College, Boston, MA.
  • Black P. and D. Wiliam (1998), Assessment and Classroom Learning, Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice
  • Steve Graham, Michael Hebert, and Karen R. Harris, Formative Assessment and Writing , The Elementary School Journal
  • Hansol Lee, Huy Q.Chung, Yu Zhang, Jamal Abedi, Mark Warschauer, 2020, The Effectiveness and Features of Formative Assessment in US K-12 Education: A Systematic Review , Applied Measurement in Education
  • Brown et al. (2014), Make It Stick, Belknap Press
  • Catarina Andersson, Torulf Palm, 2017, The impact of formative assessment on student achievement: A study of the effects of changes to classroom practice after a comprehensive professional development programme , Learning and Instruction , 49
  • Jens G. Klinzing, Niels Niethard, Jan Born, 2019, Mechanisms of systems memory consolidation during sleep , Nature Neuroscience
  • Edwin A. Locke, 1968, Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives , Organisational Behaviour and Human Performance
  • Hattie, J & Timperley, H, 2007, The Power of Feedback , Review of educational Research Vol. 77
  • Carol Dweck, 2006, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Random House

nardin hannah former teacher

Nardin is a former primary school teacher of 10 years. During her time as a teacher, she served as Head of Years for K-2, was a trained NAPLAN marker, and was part of the team that wrote the 2021 NSW English Syllabus 3-6. She is currently an assessment consultant for ICAS and Reach.

Tag: formative assessments

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What Is Formative Assessment? An EdWeek Video Explainer

formative assessment video

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Do you think you have a pretty good understanding of formative assessment? If not, you have a lot of company. Many people are confused about this kind of testing, and they often define it very differently.

We called on a classroom teacher to help define and explain formative assessment, and we made a neat little video explainer for you. Take a look; it’s embedded in the top of this blog post.

formative assessment video

Assessment is a hot topic, of course, but most of those conversations are about summative testing, the kind you do when learning is over, like at the end of the school year. There’s also interim testing, which tries to measure how well students learned specific, smaller chunks of instruction. So where does formative assessment fit into that scheme?

Watch the video to find out.

For a deeper dive, check out EdWeek’s special report on formative assessment . It tells you that lots of people are searching for clarity on formative assessment . And it supplies perspectives of experts to help you find the answers.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.

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Formative assessment: Assessment of and for learning video modules

Formative assessment expert Dr. Heidi Andrade of the University at Albany prepared ten video modules on implementing formative assessment in the classroom. This series is the product of  two federal grants: Artful Learning Communities: Assessing Learning, Transforming Practice, Promoting Achievement and ARTS ACHIEVE: Impacting Student Success in the Arts, a research project undertaken in 2010-2015 by Studio in a School and the NYCDOE’s Office of Arts and Special Projects.  The video modules are designed for teams of educators to engage in together. Teams may choose to engage with the modules in order, or select those chapters that align to their particular goals. Teams should begin by viewing the Chapter Overview of  Formative Assessment: Assessment of and for Learning document.

Included Resources

Chapter overview of formative assessment: ass..., chapter overview of formative ..., chapter overview of formative assessment: assessment of and for learning.

This document outlines the objectives of each video chapter of the Assessment of and for Learning series. This series, led by the national formative assessment expert Dr. Heidi Andrade of the University at Albany, is the product of two federal grants: Artful Learning Communities: Assessing Learning, Transforming Practice, Promoting Achievement and ARTS ACHIEVE: Impacting Student Success in the Arts, a research project undertaken in 2010-2015 by Studio in a School and the NYCDOE’s Office of Arts and Special Projects.  The video modules are designed for teams of educators to engage in together. Teams may choose to engage with the modules in order, or select those chapters that align to their particular goals.

Formative assessment: Assessment of and for l...

Formative assessment: assessme..., formative assessment: assessment of and for learning video modules slides.

This document contains the slides shown in the Formative Assessment: Assessment of and for Learning video modules led by formative assessment expert Dr. Heidi Andrade. This video module series is the product of ARTS ACHIEVE: Impacting Student Success in the Arts, a research project undertaken in 2010-2015 by Studio in a School and the NYCDOE’s Office of Arts and Special Projects.  The video modules are designed for teams of educators to engage in together. Teams may choose to engage with the modules in order, or select those chapters that align to their particular goals.

Formative assessment expert Dr. Heidi Andrade of the University at Albany prepared ten video modules on implementing formative assessment in the classroom. This video module series is the product of ARTS ACHIEVE: Impacting Student Success in the Arts, a research project undertaken in 2010-2015 by Studio in a School and the NYCDOE’s Office of Arts and Special Projects.  The video modules are designed for teams of educators to engage in together. Teams may choose to engage with the modules in order, or select those chapters that align to their particular goals.

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Formative Assessment in Action Video Series

Using rubrics to improve student writing.

This 12-minute video features Christina Lambie–a district administrator in the Woodland Joint Unified School District–demonstrating the formative assessment process as her grade six class uses a Smarter Balanced sample item and corresponding rubric to target and improve writing skills.

Knotty Rope: 3 Act Math Task

This 12-minute video features Cassandra Gartung—an instructional coordinator in the Victor Elementary School District—demonstrating the formative assessment process as her grade three math class uses inquiry to identify and solve a math performance task problem involving the number of knots tied in a given length of rope.

Constructing Scientific Explanations Using Defining Sentences

This 12-minute video features Toni David─an elementary school teacher in the Stanislaus Unified School District─demonstrating the formative assessment process as her grade five class works in collaborative groups to create defining sentences in an effort to enhance a written explanation of why it rains.

Digital Hybrid Socratic Seminar

This 13-minute video features Matthew Cowan─an instructional coach at Redlands Unified School District─demonstrating the formative assessment process as his grade nine ELA students debate the effects of texting and video games on student learning.

Using Ratios to Solve Real-World Problems

This 9-minute video features Travis Burke─a math professional development coach in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District─demonstrating the formative assessment process as his grade six students discuss different ratio combinations for the perfect glass of chocolate milk. Students teach each other different strategies for solving this problem, and then attempt to convince classmates that their strategy is best.

Rhetorical Reading Review—A Close Look at Author, Text, and Audience

This 10-minute video features Leisa Machado─a middle school English language arts and history teacher from the Turlock Unified School District─demonstrating the formative assessment process as her grade seven students annotate a newspaper article, and then work in groups to complete posters based on collaborative discussion and use text-on-text graffiti to provide feedback to their peers.

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What is Formative Assessment?

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What’s the Definition of Formative Assessment?

Here’s exactly what formative assessment is and why it’s so important.

If this is new to you, you’re not alone. Formative assessment (also called classroom assessment or formative evaluation) is assessing a learner’s progress in the middle of instruction rather than at the end. That way instruction can adapt or “form” to students needs. And educators can ensure understanding for all students is “formed” to the desired learning outcome .

Rick Stiggins is the founder and director of the ETS Assessment Training Institute. He describes formative assessment as “assessment for learning” as opposed to “assessment of learning.” T his is an assessment that happens in the mid-stream during instruction, not just at the end. 

Because the assessment happens during instruction, there is still time to affect the outcome . “Formative” means adjusting to teaching and learning based on the results. ( Black & Wiliam , 1998)

Essential Framework

Learning requires that teachers and learners share an understanding of three fundamental concepts.

  • The desired outcome or goal. This is the intended future state that includes mastery of the skills or content being taught.
  • The student’s present position or progress toward that goal. This is the student’s current state .
  • And finally, some idea of how to close the gap, to make headway toward achieving the goal.

All three of these details need to be understood before action can be taken to improve the learning. ( Black & Wiliam , 1998)

Future State

Stiggins says, “to assess student achievement accurately, teachers and administrators must understand the achievement targets their students are to master. They cannot assess (let alone teach) achievement that has not been defined.”

Current State

One aim of formative assessment is for instructors to determine how well students are learning. ( Pellegrino, Chudowski & Glaser , 2001) It reveals the thinking and learning within students to instructors. ( Fennel , 2006)

But the goal is not to reveal a student’s current state to the teacher alone. Clarity around current and future states is essential for both teachers and learners.

The goal of formative assessment is not to reveal a student's current learning state to the teacher alone, but to the student themselves. #formativeassessment #edtech #education Click To Tweet

According to the authors of Knowing what Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment , “Assessments should focus on making students’ thinking visible to both their teachers and themselves.” 

Progress Closing the Gap

First current and future states are discerned by teachers and learners alike. Then appropriate strategies are chosen to support students achieving the goal. ( Pellegrino, Chudowski & Glaser , 2001) The course of instruction can be altered, in order to better help students achieve competence. ( Hall , 2014)

To get the most from formative assessment, students need feedback about the quality of their work and information about what they can do to improve. ( Pellegrino, Chudowski & Glaser , 2001) This type of feedback is called formative feedback . It’s a teaching method where formative assessment and discussion between teachers and learners creates a feedback loop. This in turn shapes future teaching and reinforces progress in learning. ( Hall , 2014)

Why Is Formative Assessment Important?

Hundreds of research studies show formative assessment produces outsized improvements in learning outcomes, especially for low-achieving students. ( Black & Wiliam , 1998; Stiggins , 2006)

In fact, research suggests that no other method has more potential for improving student learning. ( Black & Wiliam , 1998)

Black and Wiliam described the statistical effect sizes of formative assessment as between 0.4 and 0.7. They stated that “An effect size of 0.4 would mean that the average pupil involved in an innovation would record the same achievement as a pupil in the top 35% of those not so involved. An effect size gain of 0.7 in the recent international comparative studies in mathematics would have raised the score of a nation in the middle of the pack of 41 countries (e.g., the U.S.) to one of the top five.”

Where Can You Learn More?

There’s a lot more to formative assessment than just this simple definition. There are specialized tools and technology designed for making formative assessment easier. Check out 30 Fresh Ideas for Adding Formative Assessment to Your Teaching .

formative assessment video

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Use Formative Assessment to Differentiate Instruction

Educators use frequent formative assessments to determine the needs of each student at Forest Lake Elementary School, and then leverage technology to tap into their learning styles. 

A student is working on a filming project ans acts like a director.

Personalized Instruction and Regular Use of Assessment

Forest Lake Elementary School (FLES) uses technology to differentiate student learning by initially assessing students with a program called MAP on English and math skills.  They use Palm Pilots to frequently measure progress in reading fluency.  Teachers use immediate response clickers to measure individual student progress in real-time.  FLES has classrooms that hum with energy as the young students independently tap out blog posts, operate interactive whiteboards, and take part in other tech-enabled lessons at various learning stations in each classroom. 

Teachers use a differentiation strategy called IPAC (Individualized Personalized Authentic and Collaborative) learning to make sure each student is learning at his or her personal best.  Students are given a variety of options to show that they have learned the content.  Each student has an individual blackboard account in which they document what they have learned in each class. The parent portal allow parents to access the account and view the content of what is learned.

Teachers at FLES have put electronic learning tools in the hands of students obtaining interactive smart boards and a “Tech Zone” of eight internet-connected computers for every classroom.  Another crucial thing they did was to insist on effective and job-embedded professional development on technology to help the teachers know how and why to integrate the technology in the design of their learning activities.  Finally, because they were selected as a NASA Explorer School, NASA provides the focus for learning math, science, technology, engineering, and geography during the day, and through videoconferencing in an after-school girls-only program.  

How It's Done

Put the tools in kids' hands.

FLES differentiates student learning by using technology tools.  The teachers determine the progress of the students using frequent assessments so that they can design learning activities that don’t reteach what is already known and are unique for what each student needs.  The ultimate differentiation tool that is used are the stations where students learn at their own pace independently.  Given appropriate training, the students self govern their learning.  This allows teachers more time to work with individual students.

  • Interactive whiteboards: Students touch the interactive boards to solve math problems, play games, or write and edit text.
  • Remote clickers: Ideal for doing quick, real-time assessments as you teach. You can also use them for pretests and posttests or even formal tests for credit.
  • Digital video cameras: Forest Lake students have used Flip video cameras to photograph shapes around the school and document field trips and film their original skits or record a presentation to show their class.
  • Mobile devices: Students use them with special probes to measure the local climate.

How to Make it Work

Customizing your teaching to suit each child makes eminent sense. Kids are different, they learn differently, so we should teach them differently, right? But when you're staring out at 20 or 30 students as individual as snowflakes, you may find yourself asking that ever-daunting question: "How?"  Below are suggestions on how to do that using technology.

  • Maintain Rigor: Give them a rubric up front, so they know what's expected of them. If possible, show examples of model work. (Download sample rubrics from Forest Lake.)
  • Make Connections: With webcams and video conferences, kids can see and talk to their peers in real time.  Prepare before the meet-up: study the culture, brainstorm questions, discuss Internet safety, and learn email etiquette.
  • Give Independence: Train the kids on what to do and then let them do it. To start last year, teacher Kevin Durden gave his fourth graders step-by-step instructions for blogging about literature and posting comments on their classmates' blogs. He posted a response to every blog entry to show them the level of discourse he expected. By February, they were sustaining the online dialogue all on their own.
  • Curate students' online destinations: Give them a clear purpose and a list of sites you've reviewed to choose from. Pick sites that are kid-friendly, colorful, and engaging.  Leave more independent exploration for middle school.
  • Give kids a real audience: Technology opens up new ways for kids to show their work to the world.  At Forest Lake, fifth graders studying erosion took photographs of patches of their playground that were washing away, then sent the snaps to the school district office with suggestions on how to correct the problem. Second graders videotaped themselves reviewing books they'd read, then voted on the best recordings to show to kindergarteners down the hall.
  • Relax: Teach them basic care. Show them how to wear the camera strap around their wrist; tuck the computer cables under the table; use protective cases when possible. Make the kids feel like these valuable tools are theirs, and chances are they'll want to take care of them.
  • Have a backup plan: Don't get caught lesson-less in the event of a technological meltdown, keep some spare batteries on hand just in case, but there's nothing wrong with the printed page if all else fails.

Forest Lake Elementary School

Per pupil expenditures, free / reduced lunch, demographics:.

5% English Learners

No Series: Formative Assessment and Monitoring Progress Part 1

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Formative Assessment and Monitoring Progress Part 1

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Discussion and Supporting Materials

  • Supporting Materials

Thought starters

  • See how this school focuses on adding value to each student's learning. Note the variety of assessments such as watching students, listening to students, and having students self-assess. How are both informal and formal data used?

Private message to Mary Morel

Mary Morel Feb 11, 2024 9:29pm

I love the structured approach in planning. It analyzes the setbacks but always tries to improve the children which, as explained, unlocks the joy of learning. I love when students take responsibility for their learning and get a chance to highlight their skills!

The informal practices are making it seem like a game and taking the observations, by exposing them to problems everyday rather than just completing workbooks- that is there is an added personalized element.

The formal is asking them how they feel about math and having them rate it on a scale, talking it through, and having them set their targets. It's more standardized.

Private message to Valencia Chan

Valencia Chan Aug 11, 2020 12:34pm

This video is very informative.

Valencia Chan Aug 11, 2020 12:41pm

very educational.

Private message to Rebecca Zona

Rebecca Zona Apr 20, 2020 2:29pm

I found this video to be very helpful.

Private message to Rosalia Soria

Rosalia Soria Mar 8, 2020 10:49pm

This has been helpful for puposes of analyzing individual work and targeting specific needs.

  • Formative Assessment and Monitoring Progress Part 1 Summary

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