by Rob Carey
TeachNOW Cohort 14
Formative assessments is a bit of a buzzword in the education field, but the data from many independent studies all show that student learning increases when formative assessments are utilized. The days of simple lecture and test are long gone and formative assessments are a current and excellent way for teachers and students to learn.
My formative assessment strategy is rooted in involving students in the assessment process as much as possible. I want students to understand why assessments are important, how they relate to the required curriculum, and how self-assessment is a critical thinking skill that adds value throughout their educational career.
I think teachers need to use a variety of formative assessments. Teachers have associated names with different types of assessments to make them easy to remember and discuss. Regardless of the name, there should be a mixture of technology, quick verbal assessments, and more traditional paper handouts.
Don’t forget that observation is another cornerstone to proper assessment. Observation is done all the time and can also be more structured. For example, a teacher walks around the classroom during a group work activity and has an assessment document with them (on clipboard or tablet device) and consciously assess and makes notes about students.
Only one assessment is never the perfect measurement of student learning. The assessment used could have poor or confusing wording that might through off students answers. And on any given day, a student could be having a bad day and won’t give their best answers. Also consider that some students do better at writing a response to a question that demonstrates their thinking; compared to a multiple choice quiz.
That’s why it’s important to have many
formative assessments given in various ways.
Once teachers have the assessment data, then it’s time to digest it and
decide what to do with the information.
Since my goal is to involve students in the
process, I will always strive to return that assessment data to them so they
can see and understand where they are on their learning curve. It’s not so much about getting a letter grade
than it is about learning and helping the student understand how best they
learn. With this information, I can come
up with better ways to teach the content and the students can come up with
better ways to learn the content.
As a future teacher of middle school students, another deeply rooted strategy for formative assessments is to make it engaging and interesting (along with my lessons, haha). Middle school students are easily bored and no student is interested in learning if they are bored.
Getting students to work collabratively by assessing each other and providing feedback to each other can provide them the little push needed to keep it interesting. The side benefit is that students may walk away with a better idea of what they know and don’t yet know.
One last tip on formative assessments is to
consider them in three categories:
- Where is the learning going
- Where is the learner right now
- How will the learner get there
and Palm, 2017)
Teachers can consider these groupings when preparing formative assessments and in doing so they can more accurately measure student learning. For example, a formative assessment could be like throwing out a big net in the sea and catching all kinds of sea creatures verses using a specific type of lure to catch a swordfish.
C., & Palm, T. (2017, January 6). Characteristics of improved formative
assessment practice. Retrieved January 8, 2020, from