Part 4: Formative Assessments
*This blog post is part of a four part series on lesson planning.
In this series of posts, we’ve learned about targeted or strategic lesson planning: creating clearly defined lesson objectives and gradual release of responsibility. The final piece to creating a well planned lesson is formative assessment.
Typically, when we mention assessments to teachers, thinking goes directly to summative assessments. Edglossary defines summative assessment as “a test or project at the end of an instructional period, used to measure student learning, acquisition of skills, and academic achievement.” Because summative assessments are given at the end of an instructional period, it does not help inform lesson planning. It measures the students’ achievement of the unit objective or academic standards. This type of formal assessment is graded and can affect students’ academic record. In simple words, formative assessment tells the teacher what the students learned from the unit and whether they met the standards.
For this post, we will focus on the other form of assessment called formative assessment. Formative assessments are provided multiple times during an instructional period to inform teachers of how the students are learning, and how teachers can adjust their teaching to better support and instruct students. Formative assessments can be formal or informal, used to gather information, in order to direct teachers and students how to move forward in a unit or chapter.
One analogy that I can think of is driving using the GPS. When you use the GPS, you create an outcome which is your destination. The directions the GPS provide are lessons that lead to the outcome. We need those directions to get to our destination. During your travels, the directions may change due to construction or the GPS found a faster way. These can be compared to formative assessments. These “rerouting” detours make the driving easier and faster just as formative assessments tell us a better way to get to the outcome.
Now that we know the difference between the two type of assessments, let’s focus on what exactly is formative assessment. As I mentioned earlier, formative assessments can be formal or informal assessments that are given throughout the unit to inform teachers and students what they’ve learned so far and how to proceed to get to the final lesson objective. There is no specific number for how many times a teacher can administer a formative assessment.
Formative assessments may take days or a few minutes. It can be as easy as a quickwrite or an exit ticket. It can be as elaborate as a group presentation or project showing what the students have learned so far.
I recently came across a wonderful resource by Scholastic on formative assessments. 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom by Judith Dodge and Blanca E. Duarte. This book is so good that I was able to convince our principal to purchase one for each of our teachers. It is good to have this book handy when lesson planning. You can choose what formative assessment fits your lesson. When planning a formative assessment, we have to consider the amount of time we are able to give students and whether it will be a group or individual assessment. Most importantly, we need to know what it is we are trying to learn and how will the assessment be used to direct instruction. I remember reading somewhere a definition of a formative assessment: “Formative assessments are assessments FOR learning, not OF learning.”
*This concludes our series of blogs on lesson planning.