Formative Assessment in the Classroom: What It Is & How to Use It

Oct 26, 2023
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There is a constant buzz in the news around testing and the question of whether or not students are being over-tested. No matter where you stand, determining what students know and where learning breaks down is critical to the education process. That’s where formative assessments come into play.

What Is a Formative Assessment?

Formative assessments are a fluid measure of student progress. They provide ongoing feedback that benefits both the teacher and the student. These types of assessments monitor a student’s performance during instruction in the classroom. They are unique in that they occur regularly throughout the instructional process rather than periodically at the end of a unit or semester. This allows for adjustments and collaboration based on student progress and needs.

Practicing Formative Assessment in the Classroom: What to Know

Bringing formative assessments to your classroom can help you keep up with your students and discover how to meet them where they’re at. The following strategies will help as you develop your formative assessment practices.

Think of Formative Assessment as a Verb Instead of a Noun

As you develop your strategy for progress monitoring, think about “formative assessment” as a verb or an action rather than a noun or a thing.

How will you formatively assess your students over time? What types of initiatives will you undertake to get the pulse on your students’ progress? If you refine your practices now, formative assessing won’t feel like testing to your students, and they will be more successful when summative assessments roll around.

Seek Out Information Informally

This strategy is less formalized than what you might think of for a traditional assessment. It involves a feedback loop that you can start by monitoring classroom discussions, asking informal questions of your students and watching them as they work to identify areas where they might be struggling.

After all, there’s plenty to learn from student interactions and behaviors that normally don’t end up in the grade book. Small or subtle hints you gather through monitoring students can signal the amount of progress you make toward your overall goals.

Give and Get Explicit Feedback

Be sure to give and get direct feedback along the way. This is the hallmark of the formative assessment process and will ensure that you are assessing for learning rather than what has already been learned.

The importance of feedback relates back to the concept of thinking about formative assessment as a verb or an action. This kind of assessment is an ongoing process that includes the all-important feedback loop between you and your students, alerting you to possible challenges, giving students control over their learning, and ensuring time for you and your students to react.

Formative Assessment Resources

Formative assessments can vary in scope. They can be as short as an informal discussion or as long as a student project or written composition, but the key differentiator is how and when you use the data gained from it all. A little creativity and careful consideration can help you find solutions that make it simple to understand formative assessment outcomes (and what to do with them).

Want to learn more about how Edmentum can help support your formative assessment goals? Check out Study Island, our high-impact, high-value learning program that provides quality academic support, practice, and real-time reporting. With immediate feedback, built-in remediation, and actionable data, Study Island enables you to easily monitor student progress and differentiate instruction. You can learn more about all of Edmentum’s solutions for formative assessment here.

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