Research Base for Formative Assessment
Black, P., Harrison, C., Lee, C., Marshall, B., & Wiliam, D. (2004). Working inside the black box: Assessment for learning in the classroom. Phi Delta Kappan, 86(1), 8-21.
Following up on the findings from “Inside the Black Box” demonstrating that improvements in formative assessment raise student achievement, this article describes one study that attempted to put formative assessment concepts into practice with 24 secondary school mathematics and science teachers in England. This article describes how teachers practiced improved questioning techniques, feedback focusing on how to improve rather than grading, and involving students in peer-assessment and self-assessment. The results showed that the motivation and attitudes of their students improved, and the students achieved higher scores on externally set tests and examinations than other students at the same schools.
Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-148.
This article summarizes, in a manner friendly to educators, the research on formative assessment and makes a strong case for its effectiveness in raising standards of achievement for all students and especially for low achievers. For example, typical effect sizes reported in this research were between 0.4 and 0.7 – larger than most of those found for educational interventions. The article outlines ways in which the practice of formative assessment can be improved, including the need for changes in policy and practice. Suggestions for implementation are offered through key components of how to support formative assessment strategies in the classroom. The authors emphasize the importance of sustained professional development and support to ensure lasting improvements in teaching and learning.
This article was seminal in developing a rationale for the use of formative assessment practices in classroom instruction. It was “required reading” for all participants in the Project.
Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 5(1), 7-74.
In recent years, when people refer to the research that revealed the significant impact of good formative assessment practices on student learning, it is the research summarized in this article to which those people are referring. The article provides an extensive review of the literature on classroom formative assessment, citing several studies that show firm evidence that innovations designed to strengthen the frequent feedback that students receive about their learning yield substantial learning gains. The perceptions of students and their role in self-assessment are considered alongside an analysis of’ the strategies used by teachers and the formative strategies incorporated in such systemic approaches as mastery learning. The article also presents a more detailed and theoretical analysis of the nature of feedback, which provides a basis for a discussion of the development of theoretical models for formative assessment and of the prospects for the improvement of practice.
Bloom, B. (1984). The search for methods of group instruction as effective as one-to-one tutoring. Educational Leadership, 41(8), 4-17.
In an attempt to find methods of group instruction as effective as one-on-one tutoring, Bloom and his colleagues conducted experiments and reviewed other research. In particular, two studies are described which were helpful to Project participants. They compared the effectiveness of (a) conventional group instruction, where assessments were used only to grade students; (b) mastery learning group instruction, where assessments were also used to provide feedback so that corrective procedures could be used; and (c) tutoring, where mastery learning feedback-corrective procedures were followed for “groups” of 1-3 students. When comparing tutoring to conventional instruction, the effect size was 2.0; when comparing mastery learning group instruction to the conventional method, the effect size was 1.0.
Guskey, T. R. (2005). Formative classroom assessment and Benjamin S. Bloom: Theory, research, and implications. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada.
The author reviews Benjamin S. Bloom’s theory of mastery learning first described in the 1960′s and makes the case for its relevance to the current formative assessment approach. The author presents Bloom’s argument that “to reduce variation in student’s achievement and to have all students learn well, we must increase variation in instructional approaches and learning time.” The strategy outlined by Bloom, labeled “mastery learning” involves clear learning goals and standards, followed by instruction with early feedback to diagnose individual learning difficulties (formative assessments) and corrective procedures for each student of what more needs to be done to achieve mastery (differentiated instruction) or enrichment activities for those who have achieved mastery. The author emphasizes that this process should focus on higher order skills and not just on basic skills. A short summary of the research is cited supporting the positive effects of mastery learning not only on measures of student achievement but also on affective measure such as school attendance rates, attitudes toward learning, and involvement in class lessons.