Integrating Theory and Practice
There are multiple models presented in the literature that describe formative assessment practices and describe how formative assessment fits into the broader framework of classroom, school and district assessments. As coaches became more comfortable with the idea that formative assessment is not just a set of techniques or instructional tools, New York Comprehensive Center (NYCC) consultants began to look for a research framework that put all of the components of formative assessment together into an instructional model, to show how the various components fit together. The Formative Assessment Model, developed by Margaret Heritage of the AACC, was the most effective model the NYCC consultants found to address this need. This model shows the procedural steps that are required to effectively implement formative assessment in the classroom, and helped coaches and teachers see the relationship between the elements outlined in the research. Use of the Formative Assessment Model helped coaches to refine their application of the components of formative assessment, and was used extensively to guide processes throughout the second year of project implementation.
To be able to integrate theory and practice of formative assessment, users must understand that formative data must be situated within a framework that connects to other data, such as classroom summative data, quarterly benchmarks and annual state tests. Though each assessment measures achievement in different ways, the assessments need to be aligned to a consistent set of learning goals. NYCC consultants worked to scaffold this knowledge with coaches throughout the 2-year project. For example, coaches used protocols to analyze different levels of data on key subtopics and mathematics data strands, such as number sense. Working closely with number sense concepts and standards over time, coaches learned to distinguish between the levels of “granularity” required for different types of data-based decision-making. Through this process coaches came to see how the Assessment Cone looks in practice, and in particular they learned how to better align data to learning goals at each “level” of data analysis.
- IST Year 2 Coaching Support Plan
- Formative Assessment Classroom Observation and Lesson Planning Tool
- 2010 National Title I Conference Presentation
- Planning Documents for Reflective Coaching Conversations
- Guiding Questions for Reflective Coaching Conversations
- Pre-coaching Considerations for Reflecting Conversations
- Feedback on Coaching Reflection Groups
- Formative Assessment Concept Map
- Margaret Heritage: Formative Assessment, What Do Teachers Need to Know and Do? (Link to Phi Delta Kappan Article Abstract)
- Checking for Understanding (Link to ASCD Book)
- Classroom Assessment: Minute by Minute, Day by Day (Link to ASCD Article)
- In the first year of the project, coaches developed a list of formative assessment classroom techniques (such as white boards, traffic light cards, etc.). Developing this list was successful in sparking interest in formative assessment and provided coaches with concrete examples to share with teachers. Through the development and ongoing review of this list of “techniques,” coaches came to see that there is no such thing as an “inherently formative technique,” rather a technique becomes formative only when it is used to move learning forward based on the evidence collected. This helped frame their understanding that classroom techniques are a small part of formative assessment practice.
- As coaches and classroom teachers deepened their use of formative assessment as a vehicle to collect evidence of student learning and apply this knowledge towards students’ next steps in instruction, NYCC consultants saw that coaches and teachers had a learning progression of their own. This progression began with some misconceptions, including “formative assessment is a set of classroom techniques,” or “formative assessment is just good teaching.” Consultants observed that the typical learning progression began with a more surface understanding of student engagement strategies (such as white boards, traffic light cards, or random selection techniques) and a desire for a “recipe book” that included many such strategies. As coaches and teachers progressed in their learning they better understood that formative assessment is about collecting evidence of student learning. By the end of the two-year training, math coaches were able to describe that formative assessment requires a deep analysis of the relationship between learning goals, success criteria, feedback, and student involvement.
- The Formative Assessment Model moved coaches’ understanding forward in two important ways. First, it helped coaches to better address the specific characteristics of each element of formative assessment. Research quite clearly outlines that formative assessment is a complex set of principles and practices, and that each of these principles is important to implementation. In this way, the model helped coaches to work with teachers to isolate each aspect of formative assessment during professional development and coaching sessions. Second, the model was instrumental in helping coaches understand the interrelationship of key formative assessment components. Most importantly, this allowed for dialogue about how formative assessment could look significantly different from classroom to classroom, and yet still adhere to the model.
- An important aspect of the coaches’ learning progression was their increased understanding of the need to provide teacher support that was differentiated and based on the needs of specific teachers and teacher teams. As coaches learned that good classroom formative assessment can look quite different from classroom to classroom, they gained confidence in providing differentiated and targeted teacher-level support.
- Formative assessment practice must be situated in a framework that allows teachers to understand the evidence in light of other types of student data teachers regularly use. The Assessment Cone supported coaches and teachers to better understand and apply this idea.
- Provide focused professional development that allows users to see examples of instructional techniques that align learning goals, success criteria, evidence-gathering, feedback, and student engagement activities.
- Use the Formative Assessment Model in the early stages of learning about formative assessment to help users understand both the specific attributes of formative assessment and how these attributes operate interdependently to create effective formative assessment practice. This model was helpful as a tool to for new users move from a conceptual framework of formative assessment to concrete examples of practice.
- These were helpful questions for new users to explore, and over time, to internalize:
- What data did you get from this technique or activity?
- What were you trying to learn about the nature of student understanding in this part of your lesson?
- How has the evidence you have gathered inform the next teaching and learning activity in your classroom?