Oct 30, 2019

Formative Assessment Optimizes Student Outcomes

First, what is formative assessment and how does it differ from summative assessment? Formative assessment occurs along the way while learning is in progress, whereas summative assessment is what is tested cumulatively at the end of the learning to see how much is retained.

Why does formative assessment get a bad rap, and why is it so vital? 

With everything teachers need to achieve in their classrooms every day, some find it challenging to measure the impact of “gradeless” work, and there can be a fear that students won’t pay attention without an immediate grade at stake.  In practice, however, using formative assessment effectively can be one of the most powerful teaching strategies to engage students more fully in their work.

The reason for its effectiveness comes down to how learning actually works.   Learning takes an investment of time and effort to be successful, and we learn best through our mistakes.  As the image above suggests, learning is not linear.  An interactive, collaborative process that assesses students’ progress along the way can not only keep a teacher apprised of which content they need to readdress, but it also can create opportunities for students to prove their points and collaboratively develop successful approaches to determining the answers to formative assessment questions.  For many, this is the fun part!

Some examples of formative assessment methods include polling questions, and analyzing sample work and group activities.  These practices are necessary to developing brain synapses that lead to student understanding.

Here are several best practices for implementing formative assessment:

     *  Focus on student-centered activities

     *  Gather data quickly

     *  Pose questions that generate discussion

     *  Encourage group collaboration 

     *  Value and learn from student mistakes

     *  Observe student participation and progress

Need help getting started?  NJCTL’s free, editable course materials include formative assessment questions.  To learn best practices in integrating formative assessment and get personal feedback from our faculty, we suggest our online, asynchronous PSI-PMI Teaching Methods Course