The process of formative assessment describes the learning progression and interactions between students and teachers. To have a significant impact on student learning, teachers must incorporate varying methods of assessment and evaluation to measure student progress and the effectiveness of instruction. Since the inception of AchieveNJ, schools have stressed the importance of including formative assessments within lesson design and lesson implementation.
The key to understanding true formative assessment and implementing it effectively is ongoing professional development where there is time for collaboration and share out among teachers. It has been found that the “workshop here workshop there” model causes a significant amount of frustration among staff members since there is not enough preparation time to be able to understand and integrate the assessment methods presented.
Well-designed professional development sessions focusing on formative assessment must have an understanding of the concept of assessment literacy. To begin to design formative assessment for your classes, you must first define the strategies needed to create them: what the students already know, where they need to go in their learning, and what steps are necessary to push them forward. Once you understand the strategies, then there is a clear picture of what needs to be created and how to drive instruction based on the data gathered from these informal assessments.
There are so many examples of formative assessment that can be incorporated into lesson planning. Some opportunities are planned for interactions whereas others can be deemed as “on-the-fly,” which will stem from an inherent teachable moment that occurs during instruction. One example is teacher-questioning, questions designed and meticulously planned to elicit critical thinking. Another example is the impact of wait time added to teacher posed questions provides students with an opportunity to think about the issue and develop a constructed answer. However, the reasonable practice question and answer series in most classrooms allow students to process the question and respond in approximately one second. A solution to this obstacle is to create questions that elicit critical thinking skills instead of simple recall. This practice should promote wait time and be practiced without the use of students raising hands but allow all students to think about the answer and then randomly select a student to respond. Other alternatives to increase wait time include independent thinking, open discussion with a pair or small group, allowing multiple responses and voting on the best answer, or simply writing the answers down and sharing them with the class.
When teachers strategically plan what they will formatively assess their students on during the instructional period there is a significant and positive impact on both student academic performance and the efficient use of instructional time.