The Classroom Assessment KnowledgeBase

Task 1: Review the Concepts of Formative Assessment


Guideline: An essential first step toward developing effective assessments is having an awareness of basic concepts of formative assessment. The resources offered will assist district and school staff members to gain such knowledge.

Assessment Terminology: A Glossary of Useful Terms

This is link is to a glossary of assessment terminology located on the U.S Department of Education website. As noted at this website, "the following is a list of terms that are used to describe current educational assessment practices. This guide is intended not to promote the use of jargon, but to establish a clear and common understanding of what these terms mean."

Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles

From the Assessment Reform Group, "Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles is a leaflet/poster summarizing the essential features of assessment for learning in an accessible form. The Principles are based on research evidence and have been widely discussed with experts and practitioners in assessment during their development."

Connecting Formative Assessment Research to Practice

This link to the Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center website provides a Learning Point Associates brief reviewing formative assessment research. As noted in the brief's introduction, 'This Connecting Research to Practice brief is intended to enhance the knowledge and build the capacity of state, district, and school personnel to implement effective formative assessment practice. To accomplish this goal, the brief defines formative assessment, examines the research, and outlines the components needed to develop a high-quality, research-based formative assessment plan in a state, district, or school.”


Defining and Enhancing Formative Assessment

This paper by Dr. James Popham proposes a definition for formative assessment and discusses issues impacting its effectiveness. It was prepared for presentation at the October 10-13, 2006, meeting of the Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers subgroup of the Council of Chief State School Officers' (CCSSO's) State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards held in Austin, Texas.


Formative Assessment Cycle

This link to the Data Use for Improving Learning website provides an overview of the formative assessment cycle in graphic form.


Formative Assessment: Improving Learning in Secondary Classrooms

Formative Assessment: Improving Learning in Secondary Classrooms, a policy brief published by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), reports on a study on the use of formative assessment. Though this brief looks at formative assessment from an international perspective, the information offered is useful to U.S. educators in demonstrating that formative assessment has a global reach.


Is Formative Assessment Losing Its Meaning?

In this August 2005 EdWeek article, Stephen Chappuis of the Assessment Training Institute warns against homogenizing the concept of formative assessment. He points out formative assessment is more than just more frequent testing.


Standards-Based Assessment - Nurturing Learning

Developed by Education Northwest, formerly the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, Toolkit98 is designed to assist classroom teachers to become better assessors of student learning. Chapter 1 addresses Standards-Based Assessment - Nuturing Learning. As an "awareness chapter”it offers an introduction to basic assessment concepts, explores users' current attitudes toward assessment, and assists users to build a vision of what they want assessment to do for them."


The Forgotten Art of Formative Assessment

This article offers an overview of formative assessment including a definition, evidence of its effectiveness, and examples of classroom use.

Using Formative Assessments to Improve the Achievement of All Students

"In this two-part presentation, Robert Anderson, Senior Assessment Specialist at WestEd, will help participants gain a greater understanding of formative assessment, which is currently seen as a key component of district and school program improvement efforts, and as a powerful tool in the efforts to overcome achievement gaps and to ensure educational equity." Each part is 60 minutes in length.

Element 1: Determine the Goals of the Formative Assessment

Purpose: Developing effective formative assessments begins with an understanding of the fundamentals. These include being knowledgeable about the basic concepts, being able to define "formative," and establishing goals and objectives for formative assessments. Element 1 outlines these tasks and offers resources for the classroom teacher to gain such understanding.

Activity 1: Understand the Basic Concepts of Formative Assessment

Activity 2: Define Formative Assessment

Activity 3: Determine the Objectives for the Assessment

Element 2: Design or Select the Assessment

Purpose: Assessments used in the classroom can be designed locally by teachers or selected from any number of commercial or other professional sources. Regardless of an assessment's origin, teachers must first plan what they intend to accomplish with the assessment. Upon doing so, they can determine whether a pre-existing or new assessment will best meet their needs.

Activity 1: Plan the Assessment

Activity 2: Evaluate Pre-existing Assessments

Activity 3: Develop Own Assessment

Element 3: Administer the Assessment

Purpose: Administering assessments includes conducting and scoring. Conducting the assessment addresses the when, where, and how of doing so. Scoring the assessment focuses on the scoring rubric, determining individual scores, and analyzing the results. Both are essential parts of administering the assessment.

Activity 1: Conduct the Assessment

Activity 2: Score the Assessment

Element 4: Understand and Interpret the Assessment Results

Purpose: When used properly, assessment results enhance instruction. It is incumbent upon teachers to understand, know how to interpret, and explain the results effectively to their students, parents, and other district and school staff members.

Activity 1: Produce and Review Assessment Results

Activity 2: Inform and Collect Feedback from Constituencies

Element 5: Make Adjustments in Instruction and Assessment

Purpose: Good assessments provide the basis for making adjustments in instruction as well as future assessments. Assessment results show teachers where changes need to be made in instructional approaches for groups of students or individual students. The assessment outcomes also show students what they need to do to improve their learning. Changes to instruction based on assessment results complete the learning cycle.

Activity 1: Make Adjustments to Instruction

Activity 2: Make Adjustments to the Assessment