How Formative Assessment Differs from Evaluation. And Why It Matters.

By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

Whether you call them checkpoints, milestones, or formative assessments, the purpose is the same: to gauge your students’ understanding of the material along the way to the BIG evaluation–the exam, the project, the final draft.

Formative assessments come in many shapes and sizes. They can be quizzes, one-minute essays, rough drafts, research journals, discussions, mini presentations, or a host of other activities. And, to some extent, we all probably use them. In the video below, however, Tim Xeriland summarizes a bit of research that can help inform how we use them. He answers such questions as Do formative assessments actually improve learning? and Should formative assessments be graded?

4 thoughts on “How Formative Assessment Differs from Evaluation. And Why It Matters.

  1. That was a great video on formative assessment. It was interesting that the showed the most learning was the group that was only provided feedback (no grades) on how to improve and were asked to improve their work. Will a grade be provided once the assignment is corrected and improved? Will all students be motivated to work if they know that only comments will be provided and no grade?

    Thanks for this video. It is an excellent explanation of formative assessment.

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    • I was also surprised by that finding, Al. I thought that the biggest gains would be found in students who received both grades AND feedback. But apparently, not so.

      I was pondering over how to make this practical in a classroom, in which we often feel the pressure to assign a grade to assignments simply to provide external motivation to students to get them done.

      The solution that I am formulating to this problem is to create a policy which stipulates that students will not receive a grade on the summative assessment unless they complete all required formative assessments. In my English class, for example, I will require students to submit a rough draft, but it will not be graded. I’ll only provided formative feedback on the draft. Then, students will submit the final draft for a grade, but I will only accept the final draft if I have received a rough draft to review first.

      Any thoughts on how this might apply to a math class?

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      • Ish,

        I like your process of requiring first draft, second draft, etc. before you accept a final draft for a grade. This same concept can be done in the math class, but it will have to be done more frequently. If we consider a unit test the summative assessment, then I would require students to submit work each class. This work would contain questions similar to those “covered” in the last class. I may also want to put questions from previous sections and/or some critical thinking questions on this as well. I would review them and return them with comments and ask the student to return the assignment corrections later. I could only accept second drafts or higher for a grade and allow the student to continue to revise until the student is confident the work is correct. Ideally, I would want the student to complete these assignments prior to the summative assessment.

        I could scan and return my feedback to the student electronically or have a shared space online where all student work is displayed (this may require agreement from the class) so that I don’t have to wait until the next class to return the assignment.

        Another option would be to ask the students to scan and submit their work electronically and use an app to mark up the .pdf file and return the assignment with feedback.

        I third option would be to have the student use a tablet app, such as ShowMe, to record their voice as they work out the problems and ask them to give me the link. I could record my feedback using the ShwMe app and share the link with them.

        Currently, I provide quizzes in smaller chunks using My Labs Plus with multiple attempts permitted, but this only provides a grade to the student and no feedback. Since the quiz is online, I cannot see the work, I can only see the answer. Therefore, it is difficult to comment on the work.

        I am going to try to provide more authentic formative assessments in my classes where I look at student work and provide quality feedback and allow students to redo smaller assignments as many times needed before a grade is provided.

        I would love to hear if anyone else has any ideas.

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  2. Pingback: “Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning” in Action – Part 1 | Ask CCIT!

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