Formative assessment provides us with that dashboard, but it doesn't mean we’re simply giving more tests. These are the core elements of a formative assessment approach:
Observations Careful observation is the foundation of a teacher’s assessment work. Observation tools include field notes, running records, checklists and guides. Yetta Goodman popularized the term kidwatching as a form of observation: the practice of “watching kids with a knowledgeable head”. This ReadWriteThink.org strategy guide shares how to use kidwatching to track and support student learning. Teachers observe and take notes on students’ understanding of skills and concepts and then use the observations to determine effective strategies for future instruction.
Conversations Surveys, interviews, and conferences can all be used as conversation-based tools for assessing learning but instruction that incorporates conversations also serves this purpose. For example, in this ReadWriteThink.org strategy guide Scott Filkins explains how to use Socratic Seminars across disciplines to build speaking and listening skills while gaining insight into the growth of students’ critical thinking skills.
Student Self-Evaluations Student self-evaluations are deliberate efforts to elicit student perspectives on their own learning. They look like lots of things including rubrics, process reflections, and student-led conferences. This strategy guide introduces the concept of using Exit Slips in the classroom to help students reflect on what they have learned and express what or how they are thinking about the new information. Templates of exit slips are provided.
Artifacts of Learning A critical component of formative assessment involves looking at the work – what can we learn from the actual products and process we witness our students creating? Collecting and analyzing student work with peers enables us to get multiple perspectives on what our students are learning. In _Our Better Judgment: Teacher Leadership for Writing Assessment_, from the NCTE Principles in Practice imprint, authors Chris Gallagher and Eric Turley argue for moving assessment to the center of our professional practice, especially if we approach writing assessment through an inquiry framework that allows us to collaborate with students, other teachers, and community members to build our own assessment literacy, expertise, and leadership.
What are some assessment strategies you use with your students?
Lisa Storm Fink has been the Project Manager for ReadWriteThink at NCTE for over 10 years. After teaching grades K-4 for almost 9 years, she brought her varied experiences (multi-age classrooms, looping, cooperating teacher for preservice teachers, plus a specialization in Remedial Reading) fulltime to the ReadWriteThink site. Lisa feels lucky to have worked on all parts of the ReadWriteThink site: as a writer and reviewer, curriculum developer, and now as Project Manager. She enjoys sharing the site with others during professional development opportunities as well as with her preservice students at the University of Illinois. Lisa also sits on several board and advisory committees. Lisa’s favorite job is as a mom to Kelsey, a high school sophomore active in marching and concert band, JV volleyball, JV softball and Scholastic Bowl; and to Kaitlyn, a 7th grader busy with softball, basketball, volleyball and Student Council.