What is a Formative Assessment?

Formative assessments are regular, informal assessments that teachers use to assess student understanding and inform teaching strategies. The ultimate goal is to collect detailed information that can be used to improve instruction and student understanding while it’s happening. Read about formative assessments in this dedicated Teaching Wiki, including the thumbs-up formative assessment.

What does formative assessment mean?

Formative assessment in the classroom means the teacher monitors pupils’ learning by providing regular and timely feedback on what they’ve done well and what they need to improve on.

It can take various forms, from informal quizzes to verbal feedback on a piece of work. To be effective, formative assessment must occur daily during teaching and learning. It’s conducted to help teachers decide how to develop student understanding further.

One commonly used formative assessment method is What Well Well? (WWW) and Even Better If? (EBI). This feedback means that pupils know what they’ve achieved to date and what they need to do next to progress in their learning.

Formative assessment is sometimes referred to as assessment for learning and usually involves diagnostic testing of some kind; this allows the teacher and the pupil to identify gaps in the pupils’ learning and then target those gaps by adjusting their planning sequences of learning to address those gaps. Depending on the subject and topic, this might involve revising previously taught concepts, practicing particular skills, or extending existing knowledge.

Formative assessment takes place in the run-up to a summative evaluation like an end-of-topic test, meaning that it is constructive in the way the results are used rather than the style of the assessment itself.

What’s the difference between formative and summative assessments?

Another way of explaining what formative assessment means is by explaining the differences between formative and summative assessment.

Summative assessment ‘sums up’ learning at the end of a set period of time, such as a term. It will also be linked to specific learning aims in the Australian Curriculum.

Summative assessments for many subjects take the form of end-of-topic tests. Depending on the subject and topic, they can be in a variety of forms, such as:

  • a task;
  • a written test;
  • a conversation;
  • or an observation.

For that reason, responses to a summative assessment could be in a range of media, including writing, photography, artwork, and audio or visual recordings. Whatever form is taken will summarize pupils learning at a given time. Typically, this data is used to record and track progress. It is also used for reporting to parents and pupils.

One good way to remember the difference between formative and summative assessments is that While a summative assessment can be seen as an ‘assessment of learning,’ a formative assessment can be seen as an ‘assessment for learning.’So let’s find out more about the differences.

Formative Assessments

Formative assessments are a method of assessing pupils. While learning is happening, rather than waiting until the end of a term or topic, this is commonly referred to as assessment for learning or AfL.

AFL evaluates the comprehension levels and learning needs of students. It is typically integrated with in-lesson learning; it doesn’t necessarily produce a score like lettered grades or numbered levels. Instead, formative assessments can help increase children’s awareness of how they learn, which can help with their sense of responsibility and independence in learning.

A task or activity is not formative unless the information it provides is used to progress learning. What makes an assessment formative is what the teacher does with the knowledge to inform their teaching on that topic.

What is a Formative Assessment framework?

A formative assessment framework provides educators with a clear structure to achieve an organized formative assessment. The framework offers both children and teachers a better focus on what children need to learn and what you, as an educator, should teach.

The formative assessment framework includes data that will help inform both learning and instruction to help structure your lessons in the best way for your class. In addition, the data from formative assessments allow educators to make an informed decision about the next steps; many studies have shown that decisions based on data are better educated than those made without. By the term ‘next steps,’ we mean the measures to put into place to help a child flourish within their learning – these decisions will be made via the formative assessment results.

The formative assessment framework usually follows this process:

  • Assessing and conveying standards.
  • Using the standards to collect and assess data to see where children are performing within the curriculum and current guidelines.
  • The teacher then shares the feedback with students with detailed feedback.
  • Based on the feedback, children will then form their formative assessment by using the comments made by the teacher to determine what they should focus on learning.

Why are Formative Assessments essential in the classroom?

Formative assessments allow children to manage activities, adjust their learning, and track their learning goals. Not only does it give educators a good amount of time to provide feedback to children regularly, but it also allows children to have their input in their learning.

Origins of Formative Assessments:

Formative assessments have been common in classrooms since the 1960s. However, they gained fresh interest following the pioneering research ‘Inside the Black Box: Raising standards through classroom assessment’ in the late 1990s.

Formative Assessment In the Classroom Examples

The ways formative assessments can be carried out are very broad. It can be as simple as teachers getting children to raise their hands if they have understood a new concept. Or an extravagant self-assessment writing exercise.

Here are some examples of formative assessments methods that are perfect in any classroom:

  • Analyzing student work- either self-assessment or peer assessments
  • Strategic questioning – ask students high-order questions to assess their understanding based on their answers
  • 3-way summaries – students write three summaries in response to a topic of increasing length to test understanding of the content
  • Sharing in groups – students discuss a topic in pairs while teachers make a note of their discussions
  • Classroom polls- does everyone understand?
  • One-minute papers -students write briefly about a topic, summarising their vital learning
  • Spontaneous quizzes and voting exercises- see what children know about the topic through quizzes and voting exercises
  • Mind maps- get children to summarise what they already know about a topic in a creative and visual way
  • Summary Paragraphs- short writing exercises to see how well students have understood an idea
  • Visual exercises- get children to draw something or create a collage based on your topic
  • Q and A Exercises- get kids to ask questions and see which of their classmates know the answers
  • Short presentations-get the children to give short presentations on the topic to show what they have learned

By trying these formative assessment methods, you’ll be able to keep track of children’s progress in a fun and less formal way. You’ll also create an approach that gives children some input with their learning by providing them with useful and consistent feedback. These methods are great to try in the classroom and accommodate both whole-class and individual assessments.

After using one of these formative assessment methods, you should follow the framework, which involves setting a task, examining children’s work, informing the teacher of knowledge and instruction, and teaching methods.

Benefits of Formative Assessments in the classroom:

As well as helping teachers to understand how well students have taken on board the topic and adjust their teaching to support them further if necessary, formative assessments have lots of benefits for helping kids learn:

  • Students can use the results to improve their learning.
  • The results allow teachers to adjust their teaching quickly.
  • Improves children’s academic achievement and progress.
  • Enhances students motivation.
  • Gives children clear learning goals.
  • Increases student engagement.
  • Helps you deliver more targeted and personalized feedback to children.
  • The results help you make an informed decision by using accurate data.
  • Helps students to precisely understand the level they are working at – grades to fit with everyone, and formative assessments allow them to put their level of understanding in context.
  • Reduce the learning gaps – by using the results of formative assessments to adjust teaching, you will ensure that everyone in the class gets the most out of your lessons.
  • It gives children a good idea of how they are progressing and what they need to do to improve.
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