Definitions and Attributes of Formative Assessment
Council of Chief State School Officers. (2008). Attributes of effective formative assessment. Washington, DC.
This document presents a definition of formative assessment and identifies and explains five attributes of effective formative assessment: learning progressions, learning goals and criteria for success, descriptive feedback, self- and peer-assessment, and collaboration among teachers and students. The CCSSO formative assessment definition was developed by leading national and international experts on formative assessment research and practice. It was adopted by the Formative Assessment Advisory Group of the Formative Assessment for Teachers and Students Collaborative. The document was used to build a common definition and understanding of research based formative assessment and its successful implementation.
Heritage, M. (2008). Learning progressions: Supporting instruction and formative assessment. Washington, DC: Council of Chief State School Officers.
This paper provides a description of learning progressions and discusses their importance for effective formative assessment. Definitions and attributes of learning progressions are presented, followed by a discussion of how learning progressions can support instructional planning and formative assessment. The author then describes several different learning progressions and examines the implications of their design for instruction and formative assessment. Finally, three different approaches to constructing learning progressions are described.
Leahy, S., Lyon, C., Thompson, M., & Wiliam, D. (2005). Classroom assessment: Minute by minute, day by day. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 19-24.
Assessment for learning, as opposed to assessment of learning, requires educators to make a major shift – from quality control in learning to quality assurance, from assessing at the end of teaching to assessing while learning is still taking place. Five nonnegotiable strategies define the territory of assessment for learning: clarifying and sharing learning intentions and criteria for success; engineering effective classroom discussions, questions, and learning tasks; providing feedback that moves learners forward; activating students as owners of their own learning; and activating students as instructional resources for one another.
Popham, W. J. (2006). Phony formative assessments: Buyer beware! Educational Leadership, 64(3), 86-87.
There is growing evidence that when schools use the results of classroom assessments to adjust ongoing instruction, students not only master content better, but also improve their performance on external achievement tests. These day-by-day and minute-by-minute uses of assessment to adjust instruction have been consistently referred to as “formative assessment.” This brief article argues that the term “formative assessment” has been used to describe many other forms of assessment, e.g., benchmark and interim tests, in order to improve the reputation and sales of these other assessments.
Sadler, D.R. (1989). Formative assessment and the design of instructional systems.Instructional Science, 18(2), 119-144.
Student involvement and feedback are critical to improving student learning. Sadler submits that formative assessment is a process to identify and close the gap between a student’s current and desired learning: “A key premise is that for students to be able to improve, they must develop the capacity to monitor the quality of their own work during actual production” (p. 119). In other words, students must be able to monitor and modify their working and thinking in the midst of their working and thinking. Because much that students do cannot easily be labeled correct or incorrect, this demands three abilities from students: 1) knowing what desired work looks like, 2) comparing their current performance with the desire performance, and 3) taking action to close the gap.
Identifying the right gap is critical. “If the learner perceives the gap as too large, the goal may be regarded as unattainable [...] Conversely, if the gap is perceived as too small, closing it might be considered not worth any additional effort.” The teacher can play a role in identifying the right gap, but the ultimately goal “should be to have the student set, internalize and adopt the goal, so that there is some determination to reach it.”
While teachers may be able to give detailed feedback to students, developing the capacity of students to perform this work removes the ceiling on what students are capable of performing, in part by freeing students from reliance on the teacher.
Shepard, L. A. (2005). Linking formative assessment to scaffolding. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 66-70.
This article provides a clear overview of formative assessment research and its link to student learning goals. Shepard proposes that formative assessment and instructional scaffolding are essentially the same thing. Formative assessment uses insights about a learner’s current understandings to alter the course of instruction and thus support the development of greater competence. Scaffolding refers to supports that teachers provide the learner during problem solving – in the form of reminders, hints, and encouragement – to ensure successful completion of a task. Four strategies illustrate the strong connection between formative assessment and research on learning: eliciting prior knowledge, providing effective feedback, teaching for transfer of knowledge, and encouraging student self-assessment. While there are many articles and sources on formative assessment, this article provides one of the clearest links between the key strategies for improved learning outcomes and formative assessment processes.
Shepard, L. A. (2007). Formative assessment: caveat emptor. In C. A. Dwyer (Ed.),The future of assessment: shaping teaching and learning (pp. 279-303). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Council of Chief State School Officers. (n.d.). CCSSO FAST SCASS. Summaries of Research Syntheses and Other Seminal Documents on Formative Assessment.
This chapter is “both a research review and a consumer advocacy piece.” In it, Shepard distinguishes between the formative assessment that a vast body of research indicates can lead to impressive gains in student learning and the interim and benchmark tests publishers have chosen to call “formative” as well. The latter do not have a research base touting their benefits, but Shepard points out that such tests can provide information that is useful for the evaluation and improvement of instructional programs.
Wiliam, D. (2006). Does assessment hinder learning? Paper presented at ETS Invitational Seminar on July 11, 2006 at the Institute of Civil Engineers, London, UK.
This presentation restates and explains the five, non-negotiable strategies that define the territory of assessment for learning: clarifying and sharing learning intentions and criteria for success; engineering effective classroom discussions, questions, and learning tasks; providing feedback that moves learners forward; activating students as owners of their own learning; and activating students as instructional resources for one another. Also, making the shift to assessment for learning appears to be worth the cost. For example, compared to class-size reduction, improving teachers’ use of assessment for learning promises two or three times the increase in student learning for around one-tenth the cost. Finally, the author argues that the best mechanism for supporting teachers in making these changes to using assessment for learning is through the use of teacher learning communities (TLCs). After trying a number of different approaches to establishing and sustaining TLCs, it appears that five principles are particularly important: gradualism, flexibility, choice, accountability, and support.