6.1 Formative assessment

Formative assessment is based on the premise that pupils make the biggest progress when:

  • they understand what they have to learn
  • they know exactly where they are in the learning process
  • they see how they can bridge the gap between their current achievements and what they have to achieve next.

As a teacher, you will help your pupils to achieve the best results if you use the three points mentioned above that highlight the fact that the evaluation process/assessments is the responsibility of both pupils and teachers as well. How does it work?

Activity 29: Assessment, a learning tool

This activity will allow teachers to think about strategies to use assessments as learning tools.

  • Download and read the TESSA key Resource ‘Assessing learning [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] ’ from the TESSA website.
  • As you read the key resource, for each of the three points above note the actions you will take so that the assessment process helps pupils to learn.
  • What seems to be the key word for formative assessment (or assessment for learning) according to you?

If you want, copy and complete the table below:

Objectives Strategies/actions
Pupils understand what they have to learn.
  • Share the learning results with them.
  • Make sure that they understand.
  • Give them enough time to explore.
They know exactly where they are in the learning process.
They see how they can bridge the gap between their current achievements and what they have to achieve.

If you are working with a colleague, share and discuss your answers.

Save these notes/this table and when you discover new strategies for assessment for learning, add them in the appropriate cell.

a.  Formative assessment: when and for what purpose?

Throughout the TESSA resources, the examples of assessments illustrate the many different types and uses of assessment for learning and the strategies used.

Activity 30: Assessments: when and why?

This activity will allow teachers to explore formative evaluation at different stages in time and for different objectives.

  • Download and read the following TESSA resources from the TESSA website:
  1. Literacy (Primary), Module 1, Section 5, Resource 4
  2. Numeracy (Primary), Module 3, Section 1, Case study 1
  3. Numeracy (Primary), Module 3, Section 1, Resource 5
  4. Science (Primary), Module 1, Section 1, Case study 2.
  • Which of the descriptions of formative assessment (below) correspond best to each of the resources listed above?
    • a.Assessment before starting to teach new content to assess current understanding or knowledge as well as misconceptions on the topic – to enable planning for progression to a more advanced level
    • b.Assessment that takes place during class to check understanding and learning as the activity progresses – to enable to adjust what happens in the lesson accordingly.
    • c.Assessment that takes place at the end of the lesson to measure what the pupils have understood, learned or acquired – to enable the next lesson content, methods and/or the support to be adjusted.

If possible, share, compare and discuss your answers with a colleague.

A well-conducted formative assessment helps teachers to monitor pupils’ progress and target the next step in the learning process more precisely. If teachers take note of some pupils’ quick progression or the difficulties encountered by others, they will be able to set appropriate support structures for all pupils, whatever their potential and level of attainment.

b.Sharing assessment makes it a more effective tool

When shared with pupils, assessment can help to improve their performance.

  • In order to assess the pupils’ work, teachers decide on assessment criteria against which to judge the work. If teachers share these assessment criteria, pupils will understand exactly what is expected and how the work should be done in order to succeed. Sharing, or even developing, the assessment criteria with pupils is important to help them achieve the desired objectives.
  • Sharing the assessment criteria with the pupils helps them to evaluate their progress, their own and their peers’ work or an event in which they participated. This allows them to start thinking of ways in which they could improve their work.

Being involved in assessment enables pupils to understand why they are learning and to define the objectives they should achieve to progress. It also improves the pupils’ self-confidence and enthusiasm for learning.

c.  Teachers also benefit from formative assessments

If formative assessment is beneficial for the pupils, it is also beneficial for teachers: if teachers think about the pupils’ reactions, learning outcomes, the way the lesson developed and the quality of the activities, then teachers can improve their own performance. This enables teacher self-evaluation.

Formative assessment is at the heart of the learning process. Do not consider it a final activity: the assessment process must take place throughout the lesson, the sequence of lessons or the project and is prepared at the planning stage.

The key word for formative assessment (or assessment for learning) is ‘constructive’.

6. Assessment and feedback for learning

6.2 Positive feedback