The #1 Reason Formative Assessment is Imperative to Learning


Previously, I wrote a post featuring some of my favorite formative assessment tools.  They are pretty simple and fairly well-known, and yet, I received many thanks from talented teachers for the list.  I also hear, often, of formative and summative assessments being confused.  That led me to write a very simplistic comparison of the two.  Then, recently, I saw a tweet to the effect that formative assessment is more important than summative assessment.  I couldn’t agree more!  All of these together led me to write today’s post.  What makes formative assessment so imperative to learning? Let’s look at the definition:

DefinitionFormative assessment including diagnostic testing is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures conducted by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.

The last part is the answer.  Formative assessment is used to modify teaching (daily instruction must be reflected upon and future instruction guided by student learning).  By doing so, students have more relevant learning experiences and better opportunities to learn and retain the new knowledge, skills, and concepts. I’m not sure how teachers can know what the students are ready to learn without some type of formative assessment.  It could be a pretest that proves content mastery already,  a mid-way check to determine whether to move on, a posttest that shows the need for reteaching, or any number of other gauges throughout instruction and learning.  I’m very much opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach to instruction.  Personalized instruction must be based on individual needs and learning styles.  The bottom line is that without consistent formative assessment, true student-centered learning isn’t taking place.

As always, I value feedback and opinions.  Data analysis and assessment management are just a couple of areas that I help schools with.

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About reflectinginspiration

I am an educator excited by the possibilities available. I am a teacher, administrator, consultant, trainer, copy editor, and more. I write about my own experiences as an educator and learner.
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3 Responses to The #1 Reason Formative Assessment is Imperative to Learning

  1. mikebwtaylor says:

    Thank you for a great post highlighting the true spirit of what formative assessment is supposed to be about – what happens AFTER the assessment. I think that because this is a harder philosophy to embed ( rather than just doing lots of little summative tests) it has been misinterpereted quite a lot. In addition, it is easy to tick off on an observation sheet whether a teacher has started to use mini white bosrds or lollipop sticks, rather than whether anything has changed as a result of the information these tools give, it has been difficult for some teachers to be encouraged towards the paradigm shift.

    More and more posts like ours are emerging though which is great I think!


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