Using Formative Assessment Practices to Promote Rigorous Learning

As educators, we are always in the process of answering these essential questions that drive our daily practice: 

What do we want all students to know and be able to do?

What will we collect as evidence of learning?

What will we do when students don’t get the learning?

What will we do if they already know the learning?

How will we provide feedback to students so they know how to get to proficiency or extend the learning?

The nation’s achievement gap is wider than ever with many sub-groups still performing significantly below their white, asian and wealthier peers. As we shift to valuing authentic learning aligned to college and career expectations it seems that the achievement gap is really an “access and quality gap.” Engagement with quality, authentic, responsive, rigorous core instruction for ALL students will go a long way to making the opportunity gap disappear forever – a lifelong personal goal.

But how? As educators there is so much out of our control. It’s overwhelming on a good day to think of meeting all kids’ needs. But for a minute, let’s dream and dream big. What if instruction was framed by a process that provides frequent information about the learning going on and students were aware of where they are in terms of meeting shared learning goals and what steps to take if they are not?

The process of formative assessment involves day to day, minute by minute assessment for LEARNING. Using the term formative learning just may be more accurate as it describes a process that is not about a test, but more about partnering with students in their learning to create a flow of actionable feedback for both teachers and students to act on to accelerate learning. 

Assessment for learning facilitates the kind of differentiation crucially needed to address ALL students’ needs. Through a process of goal setting, documentation and reflection teachers and students collaborate together to make learning as visual as possible so learning and teaching moves are transparent and actionable.

How to set up a formative assessment system in your classroom?

  1. What is the intended learning? Set clear learning goals based on grade level skill and content with students and make it visible. 
  2. How will learning be elicited? Create and deliver learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning and document the process. 
  3. How will evidence of learning be interpreted? Students and teachers reflect and interpret the evidence of learning. 
  4. How will evidence of student learning be acted upon? Students and teachers act on the evidence to accelerate and/or validate the learning.
Tools for Teachers
Formative Assessment Process

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