Assessments for learning

During the past few years, this blog has addressed several questions about formative assessments. These just-in-time assessments embedded in instruction help a teacher understand what students are learning, identify misconceptions, and adjust instruction as needed. These assessments are an integral part of instruction, not an add-on or special event. These informal (and often ungraded) assessments also allow students to practice and reflect on their learning.

Here’s a quick look back at some of my favorite questions (and answers):

Formative assessments: real-time responses   My principal is talking to us about using “formative” assessments. But does this mean taking time away from instruction for more tests? When will I have time to teach?

Formative assessments   I’m looking for suggestions for formative assessments.  Do you have some unique ideas to assess students quickly and adjust instruction accordingly?

Testing blues   I’m feeling really frustrated right now. I thought the students were following along in my first unit, but when I gave the test, I was really disappointed in the results. What can I do differently in the next unit?

What do students already know?   Last year, I started giving pretests at the beginning of each unit. The students were upset because they didn’t know many of the answers, even though I explained I didn’t expect them to know everything and the pretest wouldn’t count as a grade. Are there other ways to find out what students know about a topic?

Assessment items   I’m interested in finding some science assessments to supplement the state tests at the high school level. I’m especially looking for ones that will help me understand students’ thinking.


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  1. Reid Harrison
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    I am currently in a teacher-education program, just beginning my student teaching. On the subject of formative assessments, I have been curious lately about the use of group or team tests given maybe a week before the actual, summative test would be given. At first, I thought that a group test might be a great way to test students for their final, summative tests at the end of a unit as it would be a great way for them to share the responsibility and give the students that are less comfortable with the material a chance to hear it from other students. However, I know that a group test cannot completely replace assessing individual students for comprehension of the material, but I do believe that it has the capability of augmenting comprehension prior to taking an individual test. If students were given the opportunity to work together on a test resembling the unit’s material as preparation for the day they take an individual test, would that be a helpful scope of where students are before they take the test?

  2. Mary Bigelow
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Reid — The question that is the last sentence of your comment could be the focus of an action research project. If you’re interested, let me know and we can discuss it!

  3. Reid Harrison
    Posted January 21, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mary, thanks for responding. I am indeed deeply interested in assessment techniques and the practical implementation of such tasks.

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