Posts Tagged ‘Formative Assessment’

Formative Assessment

January 10, 2014

Nash in a Nutshell: The gift of formative assessment: mistakes transformed into an abundance of personalised, challenging learning for all students by establishing clearly defined goals,  the options to achieve them and assess the success specific to them.

I appreciate that formative assessment is something that we have different levels of understanding of so I will build this guide from the foundations.

The Essentials of Formative Assessment:

Formative Assessment is assessment for learning; summative assessment is assessment of learning.

Summative Assessment: students have learnt something and we are testing this, which will result in a measure e.g. grade, score or level. This is important for tracking progress but for the learners it leaves them with a ‘so what?’, confusion and lack of clarity as to why they worked really hard but have only achieved a ‘pass’ grade instead of anything higher or what they need to do to improve and achieve a higher grade.

You may be able to relate to this if at some point in your career you have experienced an observation grade but haven’t received clear information and an explanation about how to improve your teaching or to have achieved an ‘Outstanding’ but cannot qualify to someone else what it was about the lesson that made it so. This leaves you mystified and nervous about the next observation. How could you be confident that you can maintain your outstanding teaching and learning or improve to achieve ‘outstanding’, if you don’t have this information.

Formative Assessment: prior knowledge which has been acquired during previous learning is assessed and (the important bit, which makes the distinction) the information gathered from the assessment is used to share with the students HOW they can progress their learning. Also, it should inform lesson planning by using this assessment data as the starting point for further learning, designing homework and the assessment etc. Hey presto! The result of this is true differentiation, personalisation and inclusion.

Myth Busting

It doesn’t have to be onerous or time consuming. In fact effective formative assessment will result in the equivalent of up to eight months of deep learning for your learners. Wow!

Formative assessment includes much more than simply marking learners’ work and providing detailed written feedback.

Feedback does not need to be presented to all learners in the same way so that it replicates the formal assessments that they need to take to pass their unit(s)/course.

Nash in a Nutshell:

Formative assessment should inform students how to improve their work and inform your planning, which will result in personalised learning and exceptional progress.

Students love it! It results in them developing a real love of learning and them feeling special! Learners are quick to complain if they aren’t getting detailed feedback and they want it regularly. Of course, when we assess them they complain because it takes effort, which they aren’t a fan of. Learners need clear feedback and can’t wait for it after they have completed their assessment. They will expect you to mark and feedback by their next lesson, they are so keen! In the real world, this isn’t practical but it is vital that their returned assessment is worth the wait. The key is it ensure that they understand the feedback and feed forward. Factor into your feedback an activity, which ensures that the learner has to engage with the feedback too for you to assess their understanding of it. Ideas for this will be included at a later date but it could be something as simple as: for each point you have raised they have to state what they will do to achieve this improvement or ask students to identify the feedback which belongs to their work and explain why.

It is the most efficient use of your time for planning exceptional learning for all learners.

It is the most effective way to facilitate progress of learning for all learners, no matter what their level and with appropriate challenge. Wow, so much achieved already!

Prove it:

A wealth of scientific research demonstrates that the effect size for feedback is 0.73, which is colossal.  It is one of the most effective teaching strategies that is proven to dramatically increase learning and achievement….if it it carried out effectively….yes, I will explain how you can….

How to:

Formative Questioning

Skilful, probing, challenging and responsive questioning allows teachers to effectively achieve formative assessment throughout learning episodes to ensure that all learning is relevant, challenging and scaffolding progress for all.  There are a variety of methods that I will discuss in an upcoming blog and there are others that you can access today.  Click here to access Matt Bromley’s comprehensive blog posts on formative feedback and here to read his posts on effective questioning to extend learning.  If that is too much effort then in a nutshell they key features of effective questioning are:

  • Appropriate questioning strategy to achieve the purposeful goal that they questioning is setting out to achieve.
  • Ensure that thinking time is provided; when you think they have had enough: allow a bit longer!
  • Ensure that questioning is inclusive by developing a culture that of curiosity and hunger for learning, whereby learners cannot afford to ‘switch off’ if they aren’t the person being directly questioned.
  • Allow inclusive learning opportunities to develop in response to the learners’ answers, instead of steering them on a pre-determined, set path but with the clear goal in mind.
  • Continue to question learners when they ‘get stuck’ by breaking down the questioning to identify their understanding, misunderstandings to build their understanding before bouncing the question to other learners.
  • Utilise peer assessment of answers and of course, develop and utilise learners’ ability to design and ask questions of each other.

Formative Marking

The Learning Spy, David Didau, blogged that ‘marking is an act of love’ (click here for link to his informative blog).  I heartily agree because it provides us with the opportunity to provide all of our learners with 1:1 support that really makes a difference to developing their enjoyment of learning; value of learning and understanding of the role they have in maximising their learning.  The focused feedback will enabling your learners to make exceptional progress, which is sustained over time.

For you: the understanding that you have gained from marking their work will ensure that your starting point for lesson planning is every learners’ current understanding and importantly misunderstandings! You will have a clear picture of where each learner is currently at, where you anticipate their learning will progress to next with a utopian idea of where they could be if all of the variables in place and the winds are blowing in the right direction.  You are now fully informed to effectively and flexibly plan based on this assessment for their next stages of learning to facilitate such achievement.  This will result in identifying a clear framework to promote the next stage of learning for all learners; appropriate teaching and learning strategies for each learner, the expected challenging individualised outcomes for the next learning sessions; short term, mid term and long term targets; success criteria; formative assessment strategies that can be utilised throughout the lesson; measured risks that could launch learning; the best way of sharing the outcomes of the session; grouping of the learners and the list goes on…..

Formative Self-Assessment

This requires the teacher to develop a genuine belief in learners of their ability to accurately assess their progress in relation to clearly defined success criteria.  If this is not achieved then the learner will not place any value on this type of assessment, their will be little learning progress made as a result of it and could lead to disengagement of the learner and definitely frustration.  It is important that the teacher clearly and patiently shares the success criteria, which is broken down to each learner’s current level of understanding.  Avoid the trap of simply handing out ‘assignment briefs’ or past exam papers’ mark schemes.  Of course, do not avoid these either if the learners understanding of success criteria has reached the point of understanding it.  My experience as an examiner and the debates that used to take place around the table during the moderation meetings (in the good ol’ days) showed me that even experienced teachers can struggle to interpret clearly the acceptable criteria for each grade.  The key ingredient here is that the learner can identify clearly their success and their mistakes and importantly how they learnt what they succeeded with and how they can improve their work, especially the parts that they had misunderstood or hadn’t achieved full success with.

Again there is a plethora of ideas that you can access to ensure that you are employing a variety of self-assessment strategies that engage your leaners.

Formative Peer Assessment

Develop a collaborative, supportive environment underpinned by clear rules and structure that encourages and facilitates peer assessment.  This can take a variety of forms, which will be discussed in great detail  in a future blog post.  You can access lots of ideas via the T.E.S. website; Passion for Learning Moodle page’s database (Derby College staff only)….contact me for more resource sites.

Vital Ingredients to Ensure Formative Assessment for Learning is Successful:
Spelling and grammar must be assessed in all pieces of work with an appropriate expectation linked to the learner’s current level. Their is nothing worse than red pen corrections for every word spelt incorrectly, if nearly all of them are! Oh there is something just as bad: no spelling corrections on mistakes because the learner has dyslexia and the teacher doesn’t think they can improve. They can! Of course, assessing spelling and grammar by writing the correct answer isn’t very helpful. Codes on work are more helpful for students to spot their mistakes to correct their mistakes. Provide strategies to help them get it right in the future or without sounding like too much like our ‘Guru Gove’: explain the origins of words so they understand their composition.

Learners must be involved in setting their own aspirational targets with high self-efficacy in all areas, especially those that they may initially find it hard to believe that they can improve.

Students must engage with the feedback that they receive from all sources; teacher, peers, self and others.  The likelihood of this will increase if it is relevant to their learning progression, is succinct and very clear.

Variety of strategies must be utilised, which develop specific skills in particular learning episodes/sessions.

Ensure that all feedback is focused, specific to the task /activity to avoid general unclear comments e.g. ‘well done, try harder’.

A supportive, trusting, collaborative learning culture whereby learners are not fearful of failure; expect mistakes; confidently accept and seek constructive feedback; self-reflection is developed and learners willingly provide supportive feedback to their peers with discernment and without ‘fear or favour’.  Importantly, teachers must be seen as ‘fair’ by their learners and there is a fair weighting between , genuine, positive and negative comments.

Learners must believe that they can improve and achieve their potential.  The feedback shared with learners and the next learning steps that we plan for develop their study skills, learning habits and ability to identify their own formative feedback.  This will enable each learner to identify what they want to learn and develop, how they can achieve this, how they can self-assess to identify whether they have achieved their clearly defined goals etc.

Tip:  Zoe Elder (click here to access her superb blog) suggests that as part of your own self assessment for learning consider ‘what aspect of AfL do you know you avoid?’

Then identify how you can learn more about this strategy, why you avoid it, how you an best try it and how will you know whether you have achieved success with it….go on!

Summary of Hattie and Gan’s observations gained from their review of the vast array of evidence based research, as cited in Hattie and Yates (2014. p. 70) into the ‘effectiveness of feedback principles within the process of instruction’.

  1. It is important to focus on how feedback is received rather than how it is given
  2. Feedback is powerful when it renders criteria for success in achieving learning goals transparent to  the learner.
  3. Feedback becomes powerful when it cues a learner’s attention onto the task, and effective task-related strategies, but away from self-focus.
  4. Feedback needs to engage learners at, or just above, their current level of functioning.
  5. Feedback should challenge the learner to invest effort in setting challenging goals.
  6. The learning environment must be open to errors and to disconfirmation.
  7. Peer feedback provides a valuable platform for elaborative discourse.  Given opportunities, students readily learn appropriate methods and rules by which respectful peer feedback can be harnessed.
  8. Feedback cues teachers to deficiencies within their instructional management and can lead to efforts to improve teaching practices.

I hope that there is something that has been of use here.  If you would like to access more information please read the blog that I have linked above and talk to me on twitter.  I am happy to answer your questions, share ideas and point you in the direction of further information. @shanie_nash