Seven Major Strategies for Creating Formative Assessments

Classroom assessment is a chance for teachers to put their creative and evaluative skills to the test. The structure and content of classroom assessments are entirely up to you. However, if you’re unsure of where to start, there are some precedents you could follow. We’ve got articles on them all, but to start, we’ll take a look at formative assessments.

Formative assessment occurs during a learning situation. For example, while reading a short story, a teacher might want to check for understanding by asking questions focused on the topic of concern. Formative assessment implies ongoing communication between the teacher and students, in the form of observations, questioning, and discussions. These interactions provide valuable feedback about students’ communication skills, social skills, and level of achievement. Classroom interactions are rich sources of information, and certain techniques can help make the most of these opportunities for assessment.

Checking for understanding during the presentation of a topic will allow you to get an impression of your students’ grasp of the matter at hand and to avoid long explanations at the end of the session. Close monitoring during written activities, whether in individual, paired, or group work, will foster the students’ confidence in completing the task, and this will also be a helpful tool in assessing whether any changes or extra explanations need to be done. In addition to checking understanding and levels of knowledge, teachers should focus on students’ attitudes, feelings, and interests. Surveys can be an effective means of assessing student attitudes.

Monitoring provides the information needed to adjust teaching and learning while they are happening. It helps teachers make informed decisions and become aware of the extent to which students are learning what is being taught and whether the methods they are using are fostering or discouraging learning.

Formative assessment is the assessment of students’ progress toward a goal, conducted at regular intervals, with the teacher issuing feedback to help to improve the students’ academic achievement. To carry out a formative assessment, you might want to ask open-ended questions and check your students’ understanding of the task. Some students will be eager to answer, while others will choose not to speak in front of their peers. This can result in the same students responding to every teacher query during class discussions. If this is the case, you might want to direct your questions to particular students to foster commitment. Remember that their reticence may be due to lack of understanding, or simply a lack of confidence in speaking in front of their peers. Rephrasing the question or asking another student for assistance can be helpful.

A different approach to formative assessment is giving anonymous written tests, such as quizzes, which give the teacher a notion of the group’s understanding of what is being taught. It is important to keep records of formative assessment and include them in planning; this will allow you to analyze student progress through a grading period. Assessments must have a clear focus and reflect the content and methods the teacher has been using. In other words, the assessment should respond to the questions what, why, and how. The first thing teachers must do is to properly answer the questions themselves. There is no point in assessing when the purpose and the content are not clearly defined from the very beginning, just as there would be no point in testing students on a topic they have never explored.

Some of the top formative assessment strategies that could be carried out in class are:

1. Sharing Goals and Criteria

As mentioned, the more teachers make students a part of their learning process, the more they will engage with class work, because they will consider it to be meaningful. To have a successful year and achieve your objectives for your students, you should share your evaluating criteria and goals for the year with other teachers. Using examples of what behaviors will and will not be tolerated can also prove highly effective.

2. Observation

Teachers use observation to determine whether students need clarification. Making yourself available for consultation by walking around the class will help avoid disruptive behavior and will provide all students—not just the ones who are confident enough to ask a question in class—with necessary information. Observation also helps teachers to make any necessary modifications in lesson plans. Instant feedback generates an environment of communication and trust, where students are allowed to ask for help and feel that the teacher is not bothered by their lack of understanding.

3. Questioning

Teachers can use questions, in the form of a quiz, in place of a verbal review, after introducing a new topic in class. This type of strategy elicits immediate information about what students know related to the material being presented. Questions also foster critical thinking and debating, which in turn serve as prompts for speaking in class and help with fluency.

4. Checks for Understanding

These actions are a chance to survey if students are following your explanations. Examples of this type of assessment include:

  • Asking open-ended questions
  • Asking students to provide examples, either oral or written
  • Asking students to identify the pattern that is being taught (signaling with thumbs up or 
down, saying yes or no, holding up response cards, etc.)

Asking one of the students to explain it to the rest of the class. 
Teachers can either monitor one student at a time or all students at once, depending on the traits of the group, the time available, and the size of the group. Bear in mind that, for the assessment to be effective, all students should have an opportunity to produce their own answers without being prompted by others. Only by giving their own answers will they experience the learning process.

5. Self-Assessment and Peer Assessment

This formative assessment strategy helps build bonds among students and provides individual students with an understanding of their learning process (metacognitive thinking).

6. Record Keeping

Making students keep a record of their grades gives them ownership of their learning process. They will be able to understand where they are and where they should be in relation to classroom goals.

7. Supervised and Extended Practice

Another way to carry out consistent monitoring is to prepare extended practice worksheets to reinforce what has been explained and checked. These activities could either be designed for completion in the classroom or given as homework.

Remember, each student is an individual. As you learn about each of your students, you can tailor your instruction. This will ensure that all students have opportunities to learn and to demonstrate what they know.

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