Formative assessment is critical in teaching for student learning. Our Curriculum & Instruction course in our education program emphasizes its importance, and for good reason. Too many teachers rigidly adhere to a district-prescribed curricular pacing calendar to ensure they cover all of the required subject’s standards, sometimes in sync throughout the department. Adopting this strict regimen often sacrifices opportunities to assess true student understanding along the way, so teachers may make adjustments to address any misunderstanding, which is unique to each student and classroom.
So, just what is formative assessment anyways? The following quotes offer an excellent overview. Click on the links for each for an extensive article to learn more about the need for, and power of, formative assessment and how it’s application is misunderstood today, even within the educational profession.
“And what is it, exactly? According to Margaret Heritage of the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing, it’s a reciprocal feedback loop of students and teachers, figuring out together whether deep learning has taken place. Her very pointed point here was that you can’t get there with a pop quiz.” Catherine Gewertz, Formative Assessment or ‘Formative Instruction?’, Education Week’s blogs > Curriculum Matters, November 11, 2010.
” ‘I used to do a lot of explaining, but now I do a lot of questioning,’ said the teacher. ‘I used to do a lot of talking, but now I do a lot of listening. I used to think about teaching the curriculum, but now I think about teaching the student.’ ” Catherine Gewertz, Expert Issues Warning on Formative Assessment Uses, Education Week Online, November 11, 2010.
“All too often, the term ‘formative assessment’ conjures images of quizzes and tests, while in reality, formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning. With this paper, the Council of Chief State School Officers seeks to illuminate and enrich the discussions around student assessment and help lead the development of more effective ways to assess student learning. These discussions focus on using the principles and best practices found in current educational research and effective educational systems in the U.S. and high- achieving nations around the world.”Margaret Heritage, Formative Assessment and Next-Generation Assessment Systems: Are We Losing an Opportunity?, Paper prepared for the Council of Chief State School Officers, September 2010
For more in-depth information on this issue, the following link takes you to the recent report on formative assessment by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).