How to Unlock Your Students’ Potential with Formative Assessments

Anyone with experience in the classroom can recognize the power behind the word “test.” Uttering the word itself can change the atmosphere of a classroom. Tests can be stressful, high-stakes, and often fail to yield the kind of information teachers need to adjust their instruction to suit their students’ needs.

Testing doesn’t have to lead to a negative learning experience. When implemented organically, formative assessments can lead to valuable results that teachers can immediately use to make a difference in the classroom. The following is an excerpt from a Discovery Education article, “Assessing Learning Organically in the Classroom.”

What exactly is formative assessment? According to the Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers (FAST) State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standard (SCASS), “Formative Assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of intended instructional outcomes.”

Key to the definition is the idea that formative assessment is a process. Teachers may use a wide variety of instruments and approaches in formative assessment. The key idea is that the information gained from the process is used to adjust ongoing teaching and learning. So what practices are part of an effective formative assessment process? Practical experience and the research literature suggest the following:

  1. Teachers create and facilitate a learning community within the classroom.
  2. Students clearly understand what they are expected to know and be able to do.
  3. A wide variety of methods are used to collect data on student learning.
  4. Teachers and students have systematic ways to monitor student progress and students receive specific and timely feedback on how they are doing.
  5. Technology is used to facilitate and enhance formative assessment processes.


Download the full article to examine each practice in greater detail.

Learn more about assessments, and how to leverage digital resources to achieve equity and excellence, at Powerful Practices in Atlanta, GA on October 16, 2016. Register today at



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