Formative Assessment In Action
The Formative Assessment in Action Spotlight aims to provide educators with resources that support learning about the formative assessment process. The spotlight includes one-page excerpts highlighting key ideas in formative assessment, classroom videos that showcase formative assessment in action, and opportunities to deepen learning about formative assessment. Educators can use the opportunities to analyze others’ practice with an eye towards incorporating new learning into current instructional routines.
Learning about the Formative Assessment Process
Video Practice with Formative Assessment
Below are two spotlight sections containing videos about Formative Assessment in Action. The section, Examples of the Elements in Action, showcases video examples of each formative assessment element implemented effectively in the lessons. The next section, Time to Investigate, includes opportunities to review several videos and analyze how each teacher integrates the formative assessment elements into her classroom practice. For every video, there is a brief summary of the content, plus a link to its Video Viewing Protocol. The protocol includes information about the teacher’s practice in relation to each element. These are not all encompassing descriptions. They offer a few observations about teacher and student actions intended to provide the seeds for thought and discussion. In each protocol, you can write down notes, including general observations and specific commendations/suggestions. If you’d like more information about formative assessment before you get into the videos, check out the descriptions of the formative assessment elements below.
Please note that on January 1st, 2020, the Teaching Channel switched to a subscription service for their content. CSAA is working to identify high-quality, publicly available alternatives to the Teaching Channel videos included in this Spotlight.
1. Examples of the Elements in Action
Watch these videos first. You will see examples of the elements being implemented effectively in a classroom situation. Using the Video Viewing Protocol for each one will deepen your understanding of each element.
The teacher starts the lesson by teaching students a new rhythm through clapping, then asks them to create two bars of a composition using new and previously learned notes and rhythms. They work out their compositions using popsicle sticks (as notations) before writing it into their worksheet. Then students share their compositions with a peer, get and receive feedback, and then work together to combine their compositions. Each step builds on the step before with feedback built into each stage.
In this lesson, the teacher gives clear direction to students to have a series of collaborative discussions with one another. Over the course of the lesson, students become increasingly aware of the need to ask more questions of one another. Students engage in a variety of discussions and acquire the skill of building on each other’s comments.
At each stage of the lesson, the teacher structures opportunities for students to draw on their previous experience designing and building roller coasters to inform their current engineering design work. This comes across in their many discussions, such as when they’re sharing past challenges and collaborating on creating a new design, e.g., one student states that the tape they used before to create friction was not very effective. Throughout the day’s lesson, students integrate their engineering work focused on “safety” with work focused on “fun.”
In this lesson, the teacher states that the purpose of the day’s work is to raise the level of student writing by making strong and persuasive arguments. During the lesson, the students analyze a model paragraph in order to be able to transfer the author’s “moves” into their own writing. The degree to which students readily share the weaknesses in their writing and plans for improvement, demonstrate that the teacher has effectively enacted a positive classroom culture. The teacher also models this respect and value throughout the lesson in the way she interacts with the students, giving them frequent praise of where they are in their learning while also demonstrating her expectations that they will improve.
2. Time to Investigate
Continue with this spotlight section, where you will have the opportunity to review several videos and analyze the teachers’ formative assessment practice. Again, completing each Video Viewing Protocol will help you gain a better insight into the formative assessment process.
Primary Grade Videos
This is a video of kindergarten math instruction aligned to college and career ready standards. Students work in pairs to create collections of 5 or 10 objects and record their counting process. The teacher checks in with the different groups to hear their thinking and advance their learning, i.e., to begin thinking about grouping the “10s” into “100s”.
This teacher’s learning goals are about making predictions and identifying problems in stories, and being able to read aloud in a storyteller’s voice. These are implied repeatedly throughout the lesson but not stated explicitly until the very end of the lesson when they review the work they’ve done in the lesson. This explicit review/statement of the lesson learning goals is with the intention of enabling students to use these practices when they read at home.
For the main activity of this lesson, the teacher tells students that they are going to be playing instruments, using what they learned about mood. The teacher provides direct instruction on rhythm and beat using the sounds students explored earlier in the lesson (la, so, mi…). The teacher models creating a beat and rhythm through clapping and tapping the floor with her feet. In this activity, they are repeating a particular phrase of a song (an ostinato). The teacher then asks students to express a mood from a book they’ve read together. Students also pick instruments based on an element they want to use to express the mood. After they’ve practiced with their instrument, the students provide the ostinato accompaniment to the book read out loud.
In this video, the teacher is working to get first graders to take ownership over their learning. To do this, she integrates technology into her teaching, using examples of text on an I-pad and involving students in assessing these with her. She gets students involved in revising their own work by using self-assessment tools to transfer and apply what they just learned. The lesson is aimed at moving students beyond first grade writing standards for informational writing, which expects students to apply some fact about the topic in addition to naming the topic and providing a sense of closure.
In this lesson, students are working with geometric manipulatives to support their thinking and demonstrate their understandings. The teacher gives the students a problem to solve and sets it in a “real world” situation, e.g., a candy factory where people are placing orders. The teacher explains the importance of writing explanations to justify thinking, stating that “mathematicians communicate their mathematics.”
In this video of elementary school writing instruction, the teacher has students utilize what they learned when they previously created persuasive speeches to now write different kinds of opinion pieces. The teacher and students together analyze a written petition to Lego for author’s “moves” that they recognize and can use themselves in their own writing.
This video shows a teacher incorporating self-assessment into her lesson. The teacher is trying to move students toward CCSS 4.1 and 4.2 in reading literature, which refers to explaining specific details and examples from a text and determining a theme or central message. The teacher asks students to place their work along a writing learning progression where they think it best fits. Then students get feedback from one another on whether they believe it’s placed accurately along the progression. Students then develop new goals for themselves based on this feedback.
In this lesson, students engage in discourse when they need to come to consensus on a solution to a word problem. In the process of coming to consensus, students explain their thinking, including their rationales. Other students need to provide counter arguments if they have different solutions and/or ask questions and comments about their peers’ solutions and thinking. This creates connected, turn-taking discourse where students are building on each other ideas (vs. just sharing stand-alone ideas). These discussions also provide a rich source of evidence of student thinking.
Secondary Grade Videos
In this lesson, students listen to one another’s ideas and ask clarifying questions. They also frequently work out ideas together to solve problems, such as suggesting strategies they can use such as guess and check. When students are working on solving the problem, the students work hard to understand each other’s thinking processes and strategies for solving the problem.
In this video of middle school math instruction aligned to college and career ready standards, the teacher asks students to solve problems related to a set of functions. The teacher’s goal is for students to find the pattern among the set of functions and from that identify a math concept that is true for the set of functions and for any context.
In this lesson, the students participate in in-depth discussions with one another based on analyses of each other’s writing. These discussions include describing what is working well in the writing, what needs to be strengthened, and helping come up with solutions to improve the writing. The teacher also engages in discussions with pairs of students, asking probing questions to advance student learning.
The teacher shows students graphs that have been created by other students in the previous lesson to demonstrate mathematical modeling. She asks them to explain why the graphs look the way they do, helping them to think critically. Then the teacher engages students in a mathematical modeling task and wants them to understand that events happening in the real world (e.g., balls being thrown in the air or a jug being filling with water) are related to math.
In this lesson, the teacher states that students have previously learned about rigid motion and asks a few students to explain their understanding in the whole group. The teacher says that for the day’s lesson, students will be using rigid motion to prove that two triangles are congruent.
This lesson is structured so that after the initial instructions and modeling, students do a series of exercises, repeating the workout circuit as many times as they can before the lesson is over. Each exercise is unique to the others. While the lesson isn’t progressive in terms of each task building on the other, the students participate in a wide enough range of activities that taken together, they appear to exercise all major muscle groups while sustaining a cardio workout.
In this lesson, the teacher asks students to consider various design elements when coming up with their graffiti tags and to create a digital version of it (during which they need to learn elements of the software, Illustrator). The teacher says that students don’t need to use all the design strategies in their tags but need to be able to provide evidence that they are thinking about the various strategies. In this way, students are using both creative and critical thinking in their design work. Also, students are asked to select the design strategies in order to represent their digital identities. This work employs all students’ cognitive abilities and skills as they consider and apply aesthetics and meaning together.
In this lesson, the teacher tells students that they will be analyzing a text from the perspective of a reality TV producer. This provides a purpose for the task and gives it relevancy (e.g., students aren’t just looking for details in the text to support a message for its own sake). She also connects this work to longer term goals in her address to the audience, saying that she expects students to be able to use/transfer their newly acquired reading disposition (of rereading texts for various levels of meaning) when they move on to other grade level texts.
What is Formative Assessment?
Formative assessment is an on-going assessment process integrated into instruction. In formative assessment, teachers gather and respond to evidence of student learning in relation to the learning goals during the course of instruction. This approach to instruction supports deep learning of CCRS. It is described here in terms of four formative assessment elements.
Learning Goals and Success Criteria
Learning Goals are lesson-sized learning expectations for students (i.e., understandings or skills) and Success Criteria describe how students will demonstrate their learning (i.e., what students say, do, make, or write). Students and teachers use the Success Criteria to determine how close students are to meeting the Learning Goals.
Eliciting and Interpreting Evidence
Eliciting Evidence involves planning learning situations where students can both develop and demonstrate what they know. Teachers collect evidence of learning (e.g., by observing, listening, asking questions, reviewing work) and make inferences (Interpreting Evidence) about student learning progress in relation to the Success Criteria.
Taking Pedagogical Action
Based on teachers’ Interpreting Evidence, they take pedagogical action in the moment, or soon after. This can include providing feedback, redirecting the learning experience, or continuing as planned.
Student Self and Peer Assessment
Students also participate in this process, through assessment. Knowing the Learning Goals, they assess themselves (Self Assessment) and their peers (Peer Assessment) in relation to the Success Criteria. Students then take action based on this assessment. Self and Peer Assessment promotes metacognition, self-directed learning, and further tailors the learning experience to match students where they are.