Principled Formative Assessment

@BiltonProfLearn: Principled Formative Assessment

Now a term into the school year, there’s plenty of evidence which we can use to reflect on our practice. Within the Bilton School self-evaluation process assessment has been identified as an area in which we are recognising that we need to reflect on our practice. In this instance the particular focus is on formative assessment.

As part of professional learning conversations that took place, colleagues have discussed what they feel are the principles behind this; the non-negotiable areas that must be within formative assessment for it be relevant and worthwhile.  Amongst the feedback effective formative assessment was identified as needing to be:

  • A dialogic, two way process
  • A diagnostic tool to identify gaps in learning and what students should develop in order to progress
  • Targeted
  • A reflective tool for teacher and student
  • A mechanism to develop student ownership of learning
  • On-going

Whilst there may be other aspects that could/should come on this list, these areas are certainly enough to start to develop discussion and prompt reflection.

Principled formative assessment is a dialogic, two/way process

Amongst comments was that ‘feedback was pointless unless we allow students time to act on it’.  It’s also clear that formative assessment is not exclusive to marking in books. When questions are being asked, continually a student is being challenged to act further or think more deeply in order to do more with their learning. Alongside this, the time for students to refine their processes, to understand the relevance of what they have just done and be clear about where they need to go next is an area that we should work at embedding within our continual practice.  In this sense formative assessment should cater for both the student and the teacher as a reciprocal way of us understanding where the teaching and learning should go to next.

Principled formative assessment is Diagnostic, Targeted and Reflective

An assessment should be designed to look at a students learning and the teacher’s teaching over a certain period of time.  The narrower the focus of the assessment the more informative it can be about a specific aspect of a students’ progress and equally specifically what they should then do to continue to progress within that area.  As a result of both the assessment and feedback being targeted it can also work as a diagnostic tool with regards to the approach of the teacher as well as the response of the pupil- and then what both should focus on to develop learning further. In terms of reflection, the idea of what has enabled the learning outcome should also be looked at, where are the student strengths? Is there a gap in process, skill or knowledge that is a limiting or impacting area? Are the teacher and student aware of this?

Principled formative assessment is a mechanism for developing student ownership

If formative assessment is personalised then effectively a student response to it should also be.  In this respect formative assessment can work alongside the premise that a student learning outcome is not fixed and can be self-directed with feedback supporting this.  The role of the teacher is to provide the conditions for a student to learn and progress, the way that we respond to a students’ work is a means for us as the teachers to think about our learners as individuals and work towards what they need that condition to be

Principled formative assessment is on-going

Formative assessment is future focused and as a result is a continual process that takes place across every aspect of every learning opportunity. That means it should exist within every lesson and every part of the curriculum.  Therefore there can’t be a one size methodology to it as learning does not take place in a black and white or linear fashion such as simply moving from 1-10.  It’s possible that formative assessment will identify the need for practice, for revision, for the application of new skills or the deepening of those already emerging. What is certain is that when applied effectively it works, reflecting on how we go about making it work therefore means that we will need to not only use it in an on-going fashion, but continue to discuss it too.