EducationWorld is pleased to present this article contributed by Marisa T. Cohen, assistant professor of psychology at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights, NY. Cohen has a degree in educational psychology.
In contrast to summative assessment, which follows instruction, formative assessment occurs both before and during instruction. The purpose is to guide teachers in planning and preparing the lesson and improving student learning. Some examples of formative assessment include criteria and goal setting, observation, graphic organizers, questioning strategies and student record keeping (Woolfolk, 2013). Formative assessment reveals how students benefit from instruction as it is taking place, and helps teachers adjust lessons accordingly.
For formative assessment to fully benefit educators and students, teachers must focus on two key components. First, it is important to include students in the learning process by providing them with a great deal of feedback. Second, educators should reflect on what students’ feedback is teaching them about their instruction.
Provide Detailed Feedback to Students
The more detailed the feedback you provide your students with, the more effective it will be. Assigning a grade such as a B+ or A- isn’t useful. It doesn’t explain to the students what they know and it does not highlight areas that they should focus on improving. Rather, providing them with clear-cut comments in the margins of the assignment will enable them to edit their work and learn something about their skills during the process. Feedback should also provide students with some sense of understanding as to how they are progressing toward the goal and what is still needed to reach it.
Another example deals with providing feedback on multiple choice exams. Rather than simply telling students the correct answer to a test question, it is important to include them in a discussion of why a specific answer is correct and why the other choices are not. If this process is completed well before the students’ end-of-unit summative test, it will clarify the concepts and correct any misunderstandings they hold regarding the material. It will also give them a sense of the types of questions their teachers may ask.
Use Students’ Feedback to Learn about Your Own Teaching
The other component of effective formative assessments is using students’ feedback to adjust instruction. For this to be effective, teachers must be extremely flexible. Rather than sticking to a clearly delineated lesson plan, they must be willing to change their approach based upon what the students already know. In the younger grades, many teachers use graphic organizers such as K-W-L charts to assess students’ pre-existing knowledge. This involves filling in what the classmates already Know and what they Want to know prior to the lesson. At this point, the teacher will re-evaluate his/her approach to the unit before proceeding to Learn.
Also effective is providing students with a pretest to gain a sense of what they have already mastered. From this “test,” which should not be included in students’ final grades, the teacher can group them based on their level of comprehension, and also get a clear sense of any misconceptions the students hold regarding the material.
It is important for teachers to educate themselves on how formative assessment can guide their instruction. It is also imperative to stress to students that formative assessment is a way to evaluate what they have mastered, so that the teacher can better meet their unique learning needs.
Woolfolk, A. E. (2013). Educational Psychology (12th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
West Virginia Department of Education - Formative Assessment Examples
Public Schools of North Carolina - Examples of Formative Assessment in Practice
Formative Assessment Strategies
Formative Assessment Tool: KWL Chart
Copyright © 2013 Education World