Updated: Jul 31, 2022
...teaching and learning must be interactive. Teachers need to know about their pupils' progress and difficulties with learning so that they can adapt their own work to meet pupils' needs - needs that are often unpredictable and that vary from one pupil to another. (Black & Wiliam, 1998, p. 140)
This breaks down the fundamentals of formative assessment:
It involves discovering what is going well and what needs to be improved in the student’s learning.
This must be followed up by a teacher response.
It is an ongoing process.
The response must be tailored to individual students and their unique needs.
When planning an effective formative assessment, the questions to ask yourself are:
Will I learn what the student understands?
Will they be aware of what they should know?
Will they know what their next steps are?
Below are some tools that can be used for formative assessment, however they can have their limitations if not planned for fully. Either they only address one or two of the above questions (usually telling you what the student knows) or they are too time-consuming to happen frequently.
Instead, here are three effective forms of formative assessment that answer all three questions, don’t take too much of your time, and can be done in the classroom or virtually.
1. Diagnostic questioning (teacher assessment) - you can use https://diagnosticquestions.com/ as I did below, or create your own. This goes beyond multiple-choice questions, the “wrong” answers should tell you what the student does understand and what misconceptions they have, as shown in the example. Having a few of these ready, before moving on to independent learning, can give you an opportunity to provide instant verbal feedback to the four groups of students until you have assessed that they have a strong level of understanding.
2. Checklist (peer assessment) - this is really useful for mock summative assessments, or more high stake formatives, as students tend to have more buy-in when they know their classmates will be seeing their work. Also, having it closer to the summative means this is a great time to remind them of task-specific clarification as you can use this as the criteria. This will hopefully mean that when they get to the summative, they are in the habit of checking this as they proceed with their work. As a tip for the younger years, give them a list of possible ‘EBIs’ to choose from, aligning to the criteria. From experience, this reduces the risk of feedback such as “write neater” or “do better”. Having a response task that links to the EBI guides their next steps rather than just pointing them in a general direction for revision. For example, to maintain this peer approach, they could find a student who had their EBI as a WWW and ask about what they did.
3. Reflection and response (self-assessment) - this could be done in their notebook, as an exit ticket on Google forms or in the example below, using Mentimeter. The purpose is to show students what they need to understand, encourage them to identify where that understanding is weaker, and give them a task that encourages them to develop it. Ranking is often easier than rating when self-assessing and narrows down the next step to just one area (helpful for students who might otherwise rate each topic as 2/5). The response task could be a starter/plenary question or a homework task. The key here is to give students time to respond to the assessment feedback whether it is coming from you, their peers, or themselves. It is very important to note that further differentiation is probably needed in the response task. If all students have to respond to their “last place” ranking, for some that may signal the need for a scaffolded task due to complete lack of understanding. For others, it may just be their least strong topic but they still need a task which demands higher-order thinking.
Be creative, be resourceful, be flexible, and remember to give students TIME to respond to feedback. We want our efforts to be worth it so don’t rush the process and remember it is ongoing.
Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment. The Phi Delta Kappan,80(2), 139-148.