FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT STRATEGIES

The first fundamental principle of effective classroom feedback is that feedback should be more work for the recipient that the donor.

Dylan William

GATHERING EVIDENCE OF STUDENT LEARNING

When teachers build assessment for learning into their daily classroom practice, they plan discussions, tasks and activities that provide evidence to guide learning. There are many simple, quick and effective ways to make assessment for learning an integral part of every day.

Key questions to ask:

  • What do my students understand?

  • Where are the gaps?

  • How can I help?

ASSESSMENT IN ACTION

In the following video, Can You Tell Me More? several Québec teachers demonstrate, explain and discuss assessment for learning in their diverse contexts. They share how they integrate assessment throughout the learning process and include examples of the tools and techniques they use for assessment such as checklists, rubrics and the use of recordings.

Download this document here.

MORE WAYS TO USE ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING

The following examples highlight more ways that teachers and students use assessment for learning in the course of their day in order to adjust their teaching and learning.

Observations and Conversations


Teacher Maya Dougan listens in on group discussions to check whether or not students are on the right track. She is able to step in when needed to clarify misconceptions or ask a question that will move students forward in their thinking. Finding time to observe students and listen to their discussions provides feedback about learning as it is happening that teachers can use to adapt learning and teaching activities to the needs of the students.

Elementary Cycle One teacher, Catherine Goodwin observes her students during writer’s workshop. As she walks around the classroom, she takes note of what is happening. She stops beside a little boy who has his pencil in his hand but is not writing and asks him what he is going to write about. He tells her he wants to write about his mom but doesn’t know how to start.

She asks him to tell her about his mom and he shares several things he loves about her. Catherine says, "This is what I heard you say about your mom. You said your mom is pretty. You said your mom is kind, and that she always helps you when you need her." She asks him if he is ready to write.

By observing her students and asking questions to elicit more information, Catherine is able to adjust to her students needs. By feeding back what she has heard, she unblocks her student and helps him move forward.

Asking Questions

When doing assessments that support learning we want to find out as much as we can about what and how students are thinking. Asking open-ended and higher-order questions can be useful in exploring students’ understandings and will reveal important information about their learning.

In Maureen Bowers' Cycle Two classroom, students work together in pairs and small groups. She listens in on discussions and asks questions that help her find out more about the degree and depth of their understanding. These kinds of daily interactions can provide opportunities for immediate feedback that extends understanding.

  • Can you tell me more...?

  • Why do you think that...?

  • What would happen if...?


Andrew Adams makes effective use of questioning as part of daily assessment for learning during his lessons. For example :

  • asking questions to find out students’ starting points

  • asking a range of questions to develop understanding and deeper thinking

Graphic Organizers and Mind Maps


Many elementary teachers like to have students use graphic organizers such as RAN or create KWL charts and mind maps at different times during the learning process.

Graphic organizers can be used as an assessment for learning because teachers can easily tell what students know or do not know about a concept or topic. They provide a wealth of information that teachers can use to scaffold learning.


Mary Sauve, has her grade 9 students create mind maps as a way of assessing what they understand about a particular concept. These mind maps also help students organize their thinking before starting on a project.

Record Keeping

Record keeping of assessment for learning is essential. How can we keep track of learning as it is happening? Many teachers keep anecdotal records and checklists of student learning. These tools allow teachers to record student thinking and track progress over time. The information that is gathered is used to provide effective feedback to students and to adjust teaching strategies to meet the needs of the students.

Providing Effective Feedback


Teacher, Sabrina Carbone has a conversation with her Cycle Three student about a piece of writing he is working on. Her feedback is timely and descriptive. She gives him a clear understanding of what he is doing well, and what he needs to work on next.

For example: Your second paragraph is clear and makes sense to me. You have added details that really help me see what is going on. Do you remember when we looked at the way authors draw their readers in right from the opening paragraph? I wonder if you could find a better way to hook your reader in your first paragraph?


Co-Constructing Assessment Criteria


Many teachers work with students to develop assessment criteria and build rubrics for the work they are doing.

This process helps students internalize expectations and makes expectations clear and transparent from the outset.

Additional Resources

Day to Day Assessment Strategies outlines steps for embedding assessment in daily practice.

Learning for All is a publication by the Ontario Ministry of Education with comprehension explanations and examples.

Crafting Feedback That Leads to Learning discusses five techniques for giving feedback to help students improve their work.

LITERACY TODAY IS UNDERSTANDING THE WORD AND THE WORLD.

© 2022, Literacy Today