We read another excellent article at my teacher leader training, Next-Generation Assessment Systems: Are We Losing an Opportunity? by Margaret Heritage (this one is a pdf file). One thing I took away from the article is how easy it is to think we’re doing formative assessment when we’re not because of the word assessment. After reading that article I see how formative assessment is truly a process so calling it formative process makes sense to me. Funny thing is that even if the name formative process takes off it will get so over used that it too will become an annoyance. 🙂
In the article effective formative process includes cycling through the following:
- teachers adjusting their teaching and learning in response to “assessment” evidence or the data collected.
- students receiving feedback about their learning, including ideas on what to do next to improve.
- students participating in the process through self and peer evaluation (see I didn’t use assessment).
The formative process is truly a cycle. In the article they found that much formative assessment is really interim assessments given several times each year. Giving more quizzes isn’t formative assessment in and of itself.Â Drilling and killing students more is neither formative assessment nor a good way to help students learn concepts. The formative process needs to be a practice that involves the teacher and the students. The key in the formative process is feedback, feedback that provides students information about the gap between their actual level of understanding and the level they need to get to. There is a distinction we need to know about with regards to feedback, information alone is not considered feedback. Information only becomes feedback when it is actively used to close the gap of understanding for the students. Praise or comments about performance are not as effective as giving suggestions, hints and cues. See my sharing learning expectations article to see how to make goals clearer. The evidence from the data should also help the teacher make changes in teaching.
In order to close the gap of understanding for the student students need to know what is expected of them by the teacher. This depends on knowing the standard, comparing their current level of performance to the standard, and doing something to improve or close the gap. This leads to an important part of our job, to help students become independent learners so they are not counting on us all the time to tell them that there is a gap.
Next-Generation Assessment Systems: Are We Losing an Opportunity? by Margaret Heritage has a lot more to digest to help us use the formative process to help our students learn. What did you get from reading it?