by Angela Stockman
1. Formative assessment is a verb, not a noun. It’s an action performed throughout the learning experience, not some thing that students are given to complete at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of it. Peek over your students’ shoulders as they work, capture evidence of their progress toward the established learning target, and use what you learn to inform your feedback and what you teach next. This three step approach for over-the-shoulder feedback can help.
2. What matters is their assessment and your assessment, not the assessment. When teachers and students establish clear targets and outcomes, studying how they are achieved can happen in a variety of organic ways without disrupting the learning experience by stopping to test or quiz. What matters most with formative assessment is our assessment of growth and why it is or isn’t happening. Rather than “building” formative assessments, we would do well to pinpoint our targets, identify assessment moments that occur within the learning experience, and establish solid habits of documentation. Our savvy analysis of this evidence and timely response is what matters most, not the construction of disruptive tasks and tests.
3. The only summative assessment that benefits learners is one that also serves as a formative assessment. If we aren’t using summative assessment findings to inform instruction, then why do we give them at all? I understand that all good practice leads to the assessment of mastery, but shouldn’t that assessment of mastery inform continued learning and teaching moves? If it doesn’t, then I’m struggling to understand why we subject kids to summative assessments, other than to evaluate them and give them grades. Please, jump into the comments and push my thinking here, because I’m still rolling these questions around in my head, and I realize that what I’m suggesting may be disconcerting for some.