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Formative Assessment

“There is a firm body of evidence that formative assessment is an essential component of classroom work and that its development can raise standards of achievement.”

~Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam

“In our relentless pursuit of the almighty A and the perfect GPA, something got lost - learning.” ~Cathy Vatterott

“Instead of prompting greater effort, low grades more often cause students to withdraw from learning.” ~Thomas Guskey

“Unlike Pavlov’s dogs, children are not primitive creatures who respond only to reward and punishment.” ~Cathy Vatterott

“Teacher quality exerts greater influence on student Achievement than any other factor in education - no other factor even comes close.” ~Linda Darling-Hammond

“Formative assessment affects teacher quality because it operates at the core of effective teaching.”  ~Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam

Formative Assessment -  is an active and intentional learning process where the teacher and the student gather evidence of learning with the goal of improving learning and achievement (Moss and Brookhart, 2009).  

  • Formative assessment is aimed at a specific goal and not an incidental outcome.
  • The evidence of student learning is connected to actionable and timely feedback from the teacher.
  • Formative assessment tells the student and the teacher what comes next in learning.

The primary purpose of formative assessment is to improve learning, not to audit it (Moss and Brookhart, 2009.)

  • Formative assessment may be rated or scored to watch progress, but feedback has to be attached to the rating or scoring.
  • The rating or scoring is not averaged or does not count toward the final grade.
  • Averaging penalizes students for making mistakes when the teaching has just begun.  It penalizes students for not what they need to know, which is why they are in school.
  • Formative assessment is fluid.  If a student does better the next day based on feedback, the next day’s performance reflects where the student is at that moment, not the previous days.
  • As an example, when learning to ride a bike, when we have learned to ride the bike, we can ride it.  Our ability to ride it is not averaged with when we started learning.  We can’t “half-way” ride a bike once we’ve learned how to ride one.


Summative or Interim Assessments

  • Summative, or interim assessments happen after more final, definitive periods of learning. After teaching and feedback has taken place.

  • Summative Assessments are measures or audits of attainment.

  • Summative assessments are more rigid and unchanging measures of what students have achieved.

  • Summative assessment results are used to make final decisions about grades.


Formative Assessment

Research is clear that extrinsic rewards can actually undermine a student’s internal motivation.  The most detrimental practices involve giving rewards, or consequences, as a direct function of a student’s performance (Moss and Brookhart, 2009).  


Formative Assessment help students strengthen:

  • Self-efficacy - the learner’s belief that he or she can succeed.

  • Self-regulation - the learner is motivated to participate in his or her own learning.

  • Self-assessment - the learner can observe, analyze, and judge his or her own learning.

  • Self-attribution - the learner’s perceptions and explanations of success will determine the effort he or she will spend on in the future.

  • Formative assessment empowers students to learn how to learn.  

  • Formative assessment empowers students to explain where they are and how they got there.  

  • Formative assessment empowers students to take charge of their own learning process by helping them assess how they are doing and what they can do next to improve and ask questions.

  • Formative assessment includes the day-to-day, minute-to minute learning that is demonstrated by what students say and do.  This includes daily work, discussions, performance tasks, homework and quizzes.  

  • These are all opportunities for mistakes, teacher feedback, and improvement, and are not averaged into the final grade.  

  • Formative assessment may be rated or scored, and it is evidence of learning that comes with actionable and timely feedback so the student and teacher know what comes next.