Thanks to the support I’ve received from various members of my learning community (particularly Julie Kopp, Theresa Gray, and Jennifer Borgioli), I’ve discovered much more about the power of formative assessment practices in recent years. Reflecting on questions like these helped me begin shaping a vision for the sort of assessment work that I wanted to begin myself and support other educators around.
The realizations below guided much of that thinking. Next week, I’ll share some of the findings from the work I’ve been able to do with teachers and students in a variety of schools and settings.
- Formative assessment is a practice that immediately informs teachers about each student’s progress toward clear learning targets.
- In order for formative assessment to provide meaningful information, it’s important to align the type of assessment we give to the selected learning targets.
- Formative assessment happens during instruction.
- Beginning this work inside of classrooms, using practices and tools that teachers and students currently value could help to establish the fact that ownership lies with them, not inside of district offices, with coaches, or with staff developers. As teachers begin to participate in inquiry relevant to improving student learning, the evidence they gather can begin to guide their decision-making. In my experience, this helps alignment happen in a natural and meaningful way that connects with past practice while improving future practice.
- When teachers capture data during instruction, this enables them to speak to students’ strengths and struggles as learners with a far greater level of specificity than other measures might allow. Using tools like checklists, annotated records, rubrics, transcripts, conference logs, and documented feedback empowers teachers and learners to notice, reflect upon, and document trends that can be responded to immediately and shared in a variety of other settings.
- Formative assessment should provide a level of information that has not been previously captured by state assessments, benchmarks, or other measures.
- Formative assessment that works improves teacher practice and student learning in ways that engage and empower them. It does not add to the “testing mess” or the stress and confusion stirred up in the wake of it. In fact, it inspires the understanding that assessment and testing are two different things.
- When assessment is working, the power is not in a tool or a test. It lies within teachers and students. They use their expertise to define goals collaboratively, identify learning targets, establish the criteria for what quality work might look like or achieve, and most importantly….study the effects of their efforts and intervene appropriately. This work not only improves practice–it enriches their expertise as well.