Formative assessment

Formative assessment is a self-reflective process that intends to promote student attainment [ [ Crooks, T. (2001), The Validity of Formative Assessments, Paper presented to the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, University of Leeds, 13-15 September] ] . Cowie and Bell [ Cowie, B., & Bell, B. (1999), A model of formative assessment in science education, Assessment in Education, 6: 101-116 ] define it as the bidirectional process between teacher and student to enhance, recognise and respond to the learning. Black and Wiliam [ Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998), Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2): 139-149 ] consider an assessment ‘formative’ when the feedback from learning activities is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet the learner's needs. Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick [Nicol, D.J. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006). Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, Vol 31(2), pp.199-218] have re-interpreted research on formative assessment and feedback and shown how these processes can help students take control of their own learning (self-regulated learning).

In the training field, formative assessment is described as assessing the formation of the student. Facilitators do this by observing students as they:

* Respond to questions
* Ask questions
* Interact with other students during activities, etc.

This enables the facilitator to evaluate own delivery, fog index and relevance of content.

Formative Assessments - Chronology and Intent

Michael Scriven (1967) coined the terms formative and summative evaluation and emphasized their differences both in terms of the goals of the information they seek and how the information is used. Benjamin Bloom (1968) just a year later made formative assessments a keystone of Learning for Mastery. He, along with Thomas Hasting and George Madaus (1971) produced the Handbook of Formative and Summative Evaluation and showed how formative assessments could be linked to instructional units in a variety of content areas. Almost 20 years ago, the Kentucky high-stakes assessment (Kifer, 1994) initially included a major emphasis on instructionally embedded tests; i.e., formative assessments.

Despite the long history of formative assessment there is currently confusion about what it means. Historically formative assessments were of instructional units and diagnostic assessments were used for placement purposes. Formative assessments are part of instruction designed to provide crucial feedback for teachers and students. Assessment results inform the teacher of what has been taught well and not so well. They inform students of what they have learned well and not learned so well. As opposed to a summative assessments designed to make judgments about student performance and produce grades, the role of a formative assessment is to improve learning. As opposed to benchmark tests that are used to predict student performance on other tests (most often state assessments), formative assessments are intimately connected to instruction.

Formative assessments are:For Learning – The purpose of formative assessment is to enhance learning not to allocate grades. Summative assessments are designed to allocate grades. The goal of formative assessment is to improve; summative assessment to prove.Embedded in Instruction - Formative assessments are considered a part of instruction and theinstructional sequence. What students are taught is reflected in what they are assessed.

They produce:Non-threatening Results - Formative assessments are scored but not graded. Students mark their own work and are encouraged to raise questions about the assessment and the material covered by the assessment.Direct and Immediate Feedback- Results of formative assessments are produced “on the spot;”teachers and students get them immediately. Teachers get a view of both individual and classperformances while students learn how well they have done.Structured Information - Teachers can judge success and plan improvements based on the formative results. Students can see progress and experience success. Both teachers and students learn from the assessment results.Ways to Improve - Summarized formative results provide a basis for the teacher to re-visit topics in the unit if necessary. Individual student responses provide a basis for giving students additional experiences in areas where they performed less well.

[Bloom, B. S. (1968) Learning for mastery. Evaluation Comment. University of California, LosAngeles.Bloom, B.S., Hastings,T. and Madaus, G. (1971) Handbook of formative and summative evaluation of student learning. New York: McGraw-Hill Book CompanyKifer, Edward (1994) The Kentucky instructional results information system, in Guskey, Thomas R. (Ed.) High Stakes Performance Assessment: Perspectives on Kentucky's Educational Reform.Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin PressScriven, M. (1967) The methodology of evaluation. In R. E. Stake (Ed.), Curriculum evaluation.American Educational Research Association monograph series on evaluation, no. 1, Chicago: Rand McNally. Reprinted with revisions in B. R. Worthen & J. R. Sanders (Eds.) (1973), Educational evaluation: Theory and practice. Worthington, OH: Charles A. Jones.]

Formative Assessment in K-12

Formative assessment is more valuable for day-to-day teaching when it is used to adapt the teaching to meet students’ needs. Formative assessment helps teachers to monitor their students’ progress and to modify the instruction accordingly. It also helps students to monitor their own progress as they get feedback from their peers and the teacher. Students also find opportunity to revise and refine their thinking by means of formative assessment. Formative assessment is also called as educative assessment and classroom assessment.

Methods of Formative Assessment:There are many ways to integrate formative assessment into K-12 classrooms. Although the key concepts of formative assessment such as constant feedback, modifying the instruction, and information about students' progress do not vary among different disciplines or levels, the methods or strategies may differ. For example, researchers developed generative activities (Stroup et al., 2004) [Stroup, W. M., Ares, N., & Hurford, A. C. (2004). A taxonomy of generative activity design supported by next generation classroom networks. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the twenty-sixth annual meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.] and model-eliciting activities (Lesh et al., 2000) [Lesh, R., Hoover, M., Hole, B., Kelly, E., & Post, T. (2000). Principles for developing thought-revealing activities for students and teachers. In A. E. Kelly & R. A. Lesh (Eds.), Handbook of research design in mathematics and science education (pp. 591-645). Mahaway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.] that can be used as formative assessment tools in mathematics and science classrooms. Others developed strategies computer-supported collaborative learning environments (Wang et al., 2004b) [Wang, T.H. (2007). What strategies are effective for formative assessment in an e-learning environment? Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 23(3), 171–186.] . More information about implication of formative assessment in specific areas is given below.

Purpose of Formative Assessment:The following are examples of application of formative assessment to content areas:

Formative Assessment in Math Education:

In math education, it is really important for teachers to see how their students approach the problems and how much mathematical knowledge and at what level students use when solving the problems. That is, knowing how students think in the process of learning or problem solving makes it possible for teachers to help their students overcome conceptual difficulties and, in turn, improve learning. In that sense, formative assessment is diagnostic. To employ formative assessment in the classrooms, a teacher has to make sure that each student participates in the learning process by expressing their ideas; there is a trustful environment -in which students can provide each other with feedback; s/he (the teacher) provides students with feedback; and the instruction is modified according to students' needs. In math classes, thought revealing activities such as model-eliciting activities (MEAs) and generative activities provide good opportunities for covering these aspects of formative assessment.

Formative assessment in Second/ Foreign Language Education:

As an ongoing assessment and it focus on process, it helps teachers to check the current status of their students’ language ability, that is, they can know what the students know and what the students do not know. It also gives chances to students to participate in modifying or replanning the upcoming classes (Bachman & Palmer, 1996) [Bachman. L.F. & Palmer A.S. (1996). Language Testing in Practice. Oxford University Press.] . Participation in their learning grows students’ motivation to learn the target language. It also raises students’ awareness on their target languages, which results in resetting their own goals. In consequence, it helps students to achieve their goals successfully as well as teachers be the facilitators to foster students’ target language ability.

In classroom, short quizzes, reflectional journals, or portfolios could be used as a formative assessment (Cohen, 1994) [Cohen. A. (1994). Assessing Language Ability in the Classroom. Heinle & Heinle Publishers.] .

Formative Assessment in Elementary Education:

In primary schools is used to inform the next steps of learning. Teacher and students both use Formative Assessments as a tool to make decisions based on data. Formative assessment occurs when teachers feed information back to students in ways that enable the student to learn better, or when students can engage in a similar, self- reflective process. The evidence shows that high quality formative assessment does have a powerful impact on student learning. Black and Wiliam (1998) report that studies of formative assessment show an effect size on Standardized Tests of between 0.4 and 0.7, larger than most known educational interventions. (The effect size is the ratio of the average improvement in test scores in the innovation to the range of scores of typical groups of pupils on the same tests; Black and Wiliam recognize that standardized tests are very limited measures of learning.) Formative assessment is particularly effective for students who have not done well in school, thus narrowing the gap between low and high achievers while raising overall achievement. Research examined by Black and Wiliam supports the conclusion that summative assessments tend to have a negative effect on student learning.

"Example of Formative Assessment in an Elementary Classroom"

Activities that can be used as Formative Assessment Tools in Mathematics and Science Classrooms

"Model-eliciting Activities (MEAs):"

Model-eliciting activities are based on real-life situations where students, working in small groups, present a mathematical model as a solution to a client’s need (Zawojewski & Carmona, 2001) [Zawojewski, J., & Carmona, G. (2001). A developmental and social perspective on problem solving strategies. In R. Speiser & C. Walter (Eds.), Proceedings of the twenty-third annual meeting of the North American chapter of the international group for the psychology of mathematics education. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education.] . The problem design enable students to evaluate their solutions according to the needs of a client identified in the problem situation and sustain themselves in productive, progressively effective cycles of conceptualizing and problem solving. Model-eliciting activities (MEAs) are ideally structured to help students build their real-world sense of problem solving towards increasingly powerful mathematical constructs. What is especially useful for mathematics educators and researchers is the capacity of MEAs to make students’ thinking visible through their models and modeling cycles. Teachers do not prompt the use of particular mathematical concepts or their representational counterparts when presenting the problems. Instead, they choose activities that maximize the potential for students to develop the concepts that are the focal point in the curriculum by building on their early and intuitive ideas. The mathematical models emerge from the students’ interactions with the problem situation and learning is assessed via these emergent behaviors.

"Generative Activities:"

In a generative activity, students are asked to come up with outcomes that are mathematically same. Students can arrive at the responses or build responses from this sameness in a wide range of ways. The sameness gives coherence to the task and allows it to be an "organizational unit for performing a specific function." (Stroup et al., 2004)

Other activities can also be used as the means of formative assessment as long as they ensure the participation of every student, make students' thoughts visible to each other and to the teacher, promote feedback to revise and refine thinking. In addition, as a complementary to all of these is to modify and adapt instruction through the information gathered by those activities.

Formative Assessment in Computer Supported Learning

"Six strategies for web-based formative assessment"

Many academics are seeking to diversify assessment tasks, broaden the range of skills assessed and provide students with more timely and informative feedback on their progress. Others are wishing to meet student expectations for more flexible delivery and to generate efficiencies in assessment that can ease academic staff workloads. The move to on-line and computer based assessment is a natural outcome of the increasing use of information and communication technologies to enhance learning. As more students seek flexibility in their courses, it seems inevitable there will be growing expectations for flexible assessment as well.

Wang et al. (2004b), developed the Formative Assessment Module of the Web-based Assessment and Test Analysis System (FAM-WATA), to help address this problem. This research not only applied FAM-WATA to assist teachers in giving feedback and interacting with students in an e-learning environment but also explored the effectiveness of FAM-WATA in facilitating student e-learning effectiveness. FAM-WATA offers six main strategies:

"Strategy 1–3: ‘Repeat the test’, ‘correct answers are not given’, and ‘ask questions’ strategies"

The combination of two strategies, ‘repeat the test’ and ‘correct answers are not given’, in web-based formative assessment will increase e-learning effectiveness (Buchanan, 2000) [Buchanan, T. (1998) Using the World Wide Web for formative assessment. Journal of Educational Technology Systems 27, 71–79.] . The major purpose of these strategies is to provide students with opportunities to revise the mistakes they have made. In addition to these two strategies, the FAM-WATA tries to stimulate student interest and desire for new challenges through the design of the Web environment, as explained next.

When learners log in and perform a self-assessment, FAM-WATA will automatically choose some questions randomly from the database. The order of questions and options are randomly arranged. This is to prevent learner boredom with repeated tests. A given test item will not show up on the following test if a learner correctly answers the test item three times consecutively. Thus, the number of test items gradually decreases with each iteration of the test. At some point, all questions will be answered correctly, and the system will tag the successful learner with a ‘pass the test’ mark. By the same token, if learners cannot answer the test item correctly three times consecutively, then the answer count will be reset to zero and begun again. Answering a test item correctly three times consecutively is necessary because the system judges that the learners may answer the question correctly simply by guessing. The purpose of this design is for learners to actively take on the challenge of learning, not passively guess their way through.

In the above design, ‘timely feedback’ is combined to form the strategy of ‘correct answers are not given’. After learners submit their test papers, FAM-WATA will immediately give scores and present references to learners without directly giving the correct answers of the questions. Meanwhile, learners may also asynchronously interact with teachers by asking questions online. As for the function of ‘timely feedback’, the system offers learners reference materials to help them find correct answers.

"Strategy 4: ‘Monitor answering history’ strategy"

FAM-WATA provides an interface to check the answering history of the user and others who have taken the test, available to learners after they pass the test. Through understanding their own progress, learners are expected to take the initiative in monitoring their learning.

"Strategy 5: ‘Query scores’ strategy"

FAM-WATA provides an interface for learners to look up peer scores and see the progress of others, to encourage the learner to learn from peers, and motivate learning. Students may find out whether others have passed the test and how many tries are required for others to answer and to pass the test. Students can query the answering history of other students. The main purpose of these designs is to add the stimulus of competition. Those who perform well or pass the test will be marked by special signs, increasing their sense of achievement.

"Strategy 6: ‘All pass and then reward’ strategy"

FAM-WATA will generate a flash (Adobe Systems Inc., CA, USA) animation to congratulate learners on passing the test. Animation effects can stimulate learner interest (Mayer & Moreno, 2002) [Mayer, R. E. & Moreno, R. (2002). Aids to computer-based multimedia learning. Learning and Instruction. 12. 107–119.] . This type of positive feedback can also be regarded as a form of encouragement for learners who pass a task, creating a sense of achievement.

Formative Assessment in UK education

In the UK education system, formative assessment (or assessment for learning) has been a key aspect of the agenda for personalised learning. The Working Group on 14–19 Reform led by Sir Mike Tomlinson, recommended that assessment of learners be refocused to be more teacher-led and less reliant on external assessment, putting learners at the heart of the assessment process. [ Jones, Dr Cheryl A, Assessment for Learning, Learning and Skills Development Agency (now the Learning and Skills Network) (2005), p.1 ]

The UK government has stated [ A national conversation about personalised learning – a summary of the DfES discussion pamphlet, Department for Education and Skills (2005), p.8 ] that personalised learning depends on teachers knowing the strengths and weaknesses of individual learners, and that a key means of achieving this is through formative assessment, involving high quality feedback to learners included within every teaching session. [ Duckett, Ian and Brooke, Di, Learning and Skills Network (2007), p.1 ] The Assessment Reform Group has set out 10 principles for formative assessment. [ Assessment for Learning: 10 research-based principles to guide classroom practice, Assessment Reform Group (2002), p.2 ] These are that assessment for learning should:

* be part of effective planning of teaching and learning
* focus on how students learn
* be recognised as central to classroom practice
* be regarded as a key professional skill for teachers
* be sensitive and constructive because any assessment has an emotional impact
* take account of the importance of learner motivation
* promote commitment to learning goals and a shared understanding of the criteria by which they are assessed
* enable learners to receive constructive guidance about how to improve
* develop learners’ capacity for self-assessment so that they can become reflective and self-managing
* recognise the full range of achievements of all learners

Benefits of Formative Assessments for Teachers (Boston, 2002)

[Boston, Carol (2002). The concept of formative assessment. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 8(9).]

* Teachers are able to determine what standards students already know and to what degree.
* Teachers can decide what minor modifications or major changes in instruction they need to makes so that all students can succeed in upcoming instruction and on subsequent assessments.
* Teachers can create appropriate lessons and activities for groups of learners or individual students.
* Teachers can inform students about their current progress in order to help them set goals for improvement.

*Students are more motivated to learn.
*Students take responsibility for their own learning.
*Students become users of assessment.
*Students learn valuable lifelong skills such as self-evaluation, self-assessment, and goal setting.
*Student achievement can improve from 21-41 percentile points.

Benefits of Formative Assessments for Students

[Marzano, Robert J. (2003). What works in schools: Translating research into action. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.] [Stiggins, R.J., Arter, J.A., Chappius, J. & Chappius, S. (2006). Classroom assessment for student learning: Doing it right-using it well. Portland, OR: Educational Testing Service. ]

*Students are more motivated to learn.
*Students take responsibility for their own learning.
*Students become users of assessment.
*Students learn valuable lifelong skills such as self-evaluation, self-assessment, and goal setting.
*Student achievement can improve from 21-41 percentile points.

ee also

* Assessment
* Summative Assessment


External links

* [ The Concept of Formative Assessment. ERIC Digest.]
* [ Qualifications and Curriculum Authority: assessment]
* [ Qualifications and Curriculum Authority: assessment for learning documents]
* [ Assessment for Learning (Learning and Skills Development Agency, now the Learning and Skills Network) (PDF)]
* [ Learning and Skills Network website]
* [ Assessment Reform Group website]
* [ The EvaluationWiki] - The mission of EvaluationWiki is to make freely available a compendium of up-to-date information and resources to everyone involved in the science and practice of evaluation. The EvaluationWiki is presented by the non-profit Evaluation Resource Institute.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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