Principal Research Scientist at ETS
Principal Research Scientist at ETS
Senior Director in New Product Development at ETS
August 18, 2022
Formative assessment improves student learning. This conclusion is supported by an extensive body of research over more than thirty years.1 Formative assessment is a process that actively involves both students and teachers collecting evidence about student learning to make decisions about next instructional or learning steps. Formative assessment practices include:
Students and teachers all over the country are saying goodbye to summer and looking towards the new school year. Setting up classroom routines is a common back-to-school activity for the first weeks of the new year and an opportunity to develop routines that make formative assessment a regular part of each lesson.
Using learning goals and success criteria to help students understand where learning is going and how they will know when they have met the learning goals is a foundational formative assessment practice.
Whole class and small group discussions are an important source of formative assessment evidence of student learning. Making activities such as “write-pair-share” or even “write-pair-share-write again” a regular part of students’ experience can provide multiple views into student thinking. Other structures include the use of mini-white boards for students to write responses on which can allow the teacher to scan answers and then use that information to decide where to go next with the discussion. Both approaches encourage all students to participate. To ensure success:
Talk with students about times when they were asked to self-assess or provide peer feedback and what they understood the purpose to be. Students’ previous experiences will inform the level of needed support to develop productive self and peer assessment habits.
Checklists can be used during a lesson to track on important evidence of student learning to inform next steps – especially when it is easy to get distracted by the details of running a classroom smoothly! Jotting down notes helps keep a record of what students are saying or doing for later reference.
As part of lesson planning create a checklist by anticipating the range of likely student responses that would be useful to collect during a lesson. For example, in an elementary mathematics lesson, it might be helpful to be able to reflect afterwards on which students still needed to use manipulatives to solve a problem versus those who were able to draw a diagram or write a number sentence. In an ELA class, a checklist might focus on which students were brainstorming versus outlining or drafting a piece of writing. Focus on collecting information that will be helpful for future lesson planning.
One-on-one student-teacher conferences provide an opportunity to elicit evidence of student thinking and provide feedback. But this approach requires classroom routines so that the conferencing student knows what is expected of them, and the other students know what to do so that they can continue learning without direct teacher assistance.
The start of a new school year is exciting, but also can be disconcerting for students as they learn the expectations of new teachers or learn to mentally switch expectations between classrooms. Developing shared, explicit routines across teachers within a school can help reduce dissonance for students and support greater use of formative assessment practices.
The start of the new school year is a good time to focus on routines that will pay off for the rest of the year. In our work with teachers, we occasionally hear comments like, “That’s a great strategy. I used to use it all the time.” This got us thinking about how we might help teachers use a greater variety of formative assessment strategies more often. Puzzling on this, we realized that one thing that teachers do regularly is lesson planning, and that eventually led to the PlanWise™ tool. This Chrome extension works in Google Docs and provides dynamic formative assessment suggestions during lesson planning, sometimes reminding teachers of strategies they used to use, and sometimes suggesting new approaches they might not have previously thought about. Learn more about PlanWise at https://www.planwise.org/
Caroline Wylie is a principal research scientist in RMS and Laura Hullinger is a senior director in New Product Development at ETS.
1 Black, P., & D. Wiliam (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education: Principles Policy and Practice, 5, 7-73. Andersson, C., & Palm, T. (2017). The impact of formative assessment on student achievement: a study of the effects of changes to classroom practice after a comprehensive professional development programme. Learning and Instruction, 49, 92-102. Supovitz, J. A.; Ebby, C. B.; Remillard, J., & Nathenson, R.A. (2018). Experimental impacts of the ongoing assessment project on teachers and students. CPRE Research Reports. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/cpre_researchreports/107