Why Formative Assessment?
You want to bake a cake just like your grandma. You call her and ask her to tell you her secret recipe. She warns you that you must stop and check your progress before proceeding to the next phase. She tells you signs you should watch out for (like checking consistency of batter and tasting the dough) to ensure that your cake comes out right.
As suggested by grandma, you mix the ingredients and stop to check the batter. What would you do if the batter wasn’t moist enough? You would probably add an ingredient to get the desired output. What will happen if you don’t check your progress at different stages? It is quite likely that the cake will not turn out as expected.
By stopping to check your progress, you do two things – you confirm that you are on the right track and you make corrections (correct your understanding) so that your cake comes out as desired.
Now replace this scenario with a classroom – you are grandma (not literally) and the students are first time cooks. They listen and follow your instructions. As they do this, it is important to stop and confirm that their understanding is correct.
You can do this by asking students to articulate their understanding. You can ask them to either
- Write the definition of the term in their own words (list out keywords, and ask them to check if they included them in their definition)
- Draw a concept map to illustrate how concepts are inter-related ( draw a chart on the board and ask them to check if their drawing has all elements, else they can add/modify it)
By pausing and checking on them, you are allowing them to confirm that they are on the right track, and they can make corrections if required. If most children seem to require corrections, then it’s a sign that the explanation wasn’t sufficient enough. You may need to add some examples to better explain the concept. Thus, assessing them mid-way helps you correct your teaching methodology on-time, rather than after evaluating results of term-end exams.
“All those activities undertaken by teachers, and by their students in assessing themselves, which provide information to be used as feedback to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. Such assessment becomes “formative assessment” when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs.” (Black and Wiliam (1998, summarized in 2001)
“The goal of formative assessment is to monitor student learning to provide ongoing feedback that can be used by instructors to improve their teaching and by students to improve their learning. More specifically, formative assessments:
- help students identify their strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work
- help faculty recognize where students are struggling and address problems immediately”
(Source: Formative & Summative Assessments – CMU)
The resources listed below describe different formative assessment strategies. We hope you find them useful.
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