Sunday, February 23, 2014

Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction

Today, Franki Sibberson, rounds up reflective posts on formative assessment and NCTE's new document at a Year of Reading.  Stop by to read more.  

"If we use assessment to understand, not evaluate, then it becomes the key to growth."    
             -Clare Landrigan & Tammy Mulligan, Assessment in Perspective (p. 124)

Formative Assessment 
Last week I participated in #nctechat about formative assessment around a new document recently released:  Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction.  Here are some of the highlights:

In today's world of standardized assessments, sometimes it feels like formative assessment gets swept under the rug.  Districts, state and federal entities push us into placing much significance on these standardized one shot evaluations of learners.  Standardized tests, in reality, are a very small part of the learner's story and rarely provide the powerful information we need to support young learners.  Yet, they become what we wrap our conversations around and often the lens in which we view children.

However, I find the best information I discover about children is found in those day-to-day interactions as we learn together.  As an educator, formative assessment gives me much information about:
  • where my students are currently 
  • what they may need next
  • strategies or understandings which may be at the edge of their learning
  • their preferences for learning
  • which focus lessons I should consider
  • small groups that may be formed
A Place to Begin 
NCTE's new document provides a way to talk about these assessments which matter to our day to day work with young literacy learners.  By pulling apart the tools and strategies of formative assessment by considering:
  • Observations:  field notes, running records, and miscue analysis
  • Conversations:  surveys, interviews, conferences
  • Students Self-Evaluation:  exit slips, rubrics, checklists, process reflections, and student-led conferences
  • Artifacts of Learning:  collect, review, and look back at a student's learning journey
we have been given a place to start these important conversations.  By finding ways to collect and organize this information we can use it to notice patterns, discuss progress, ask guiding questions and plan intentional instruction.  I'm looking forward to the conversations that may follow as we dig a little deeper into the powerful practice of formative assessment.

A Few Past Posts About Assessment


  1. I just read @katsok's this am about the same topic. Wish I hadn't missed that NCTE chat! Thanks for the info!

  2. I'll be leading a discussion this week about this, Cathy. We have student-teacher-parent portfolio conferences coming in a few weeks, so this will help me guide the discussion immensely. Thank you!

  3. Love how you used questions to dig deeper - an inquiry stance around assessment really moves us to action. Thanks for sharing your resources and for your highlights - fun to read! Let's continue this conversation.
    Clare and Tammy

  4. I've read this post three or four times now. I needed to read it and then leave it to think about it. Formative assessment is my natural course of action, I think we need more time to meet with other teachers to find out how they move forward with the same information. Does the teacher next door to me teach X when she discovers that Student A only uses picture clues? If she doesn't teach X, what does she use instead and why? Naturally researching alongside colleagues.

    First in Maine

  5. Great post Cathy! Thank you for compiling the discussion an for sharing your highlights. This is one I want to reread.

  6. Thanks for the rich collection of resources, Cathy! I especially liked the line about students on the edge of learning--that cusp, that "almost there" distinction is one that formative assessment helps us make (and one I've been thinking about lately as teachers talk to me about their own evaluations). Bookmarking and sharing, thank you!