Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment Definition

One of the many kinds of assessments teachers use in the classroom is formative assessment, which is any assessment that is given as part of the learning process

Teachers may choose to write their own formative assessments or use existing assessments from their school's bank of resources.

Gauging understanding in this way helps to inform a teacher's planning and delivery of course content and ensures they are pitching lessons at the right level for their classes. It may lead them to recognize a need to slow down and scaffold activities with more support, or it may lead them to increase the pace and provide greater challenge to their students. As such, there are many different types of formative assessment available for teachers to use.

Formative Assessment Examples

The term formative assessment encompasses any method used to gain insight into student knowledge, understanding and skills, such as a test, a class discussion or a peer or self-assessment.

Teachers weigh up the advantages of any given formative assessment activity in the natural course of their lesson planning and make a decision on the activities that will best serve the students and their own needs in gauging progress – whether they're determining reading fluency, ability to solve equations or inquiry skills.

A good example is formative assessment for English Language Learners reading a piece of literature. When working with English language learners, it can be especially important to find a formative assessment that addresses their content knowledge and skills, rather than only their command of English.

Formative Assessment Strategies

Formative assessment strategies can be as simple as making observations and having conversations with students. Teachers may choose to take themselves out of the equation altogether and give the students the means to assess their own or their peers' work. It can come in the form of marking students' exercise books, setting class tests or having students prepare and deliver presentations. Really, any activity you take part in that requires students to display knowledge and skills is a method of formative assessment.

With many of these methods it is impossible to keep a running record of student knowledge – data is stored in the form of teachers' ongoing experience and understanding of student performance. However, where it is possible to make records – i.e. noting the results of tests or marking essays – teachers will track student progress throughout the year and use it to inform their planning.

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