The Importance of Formative Assessments for Optimal Teaching & Learning

Formative assessments offer the opportunity to monitor student learning on a regular, informal and efficient basis.

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Formative Assessments Provides Key Insights

These are the kinds of insights that teachers need to ensure that their instruction and curriculum are on target for most if not all of their students. This real-time feedback on student learning allows for timely course corrections for the whole class, or the implementation of interventions for select students. 

The Benefits of Formative Assessment in the Classroom 

Where summative assessments serve to evaluate learning and performance at the end of a unit or term, at which point it’s not possible to intervene on material recently taught, formative assessments provide immediate feedback -- the sort of ongoing feedback that instructors need to adjust and improve their lesson plans, sometimes at the individual level. 

Because they are part of an everyday curriculum, formative assessments provide insights into the performance of students in key domains and subjects, showing their strengths and weaknesses on material just presented. Teachers and staff can then address problems immediately and help get students back on track. 

Formative assessments are “low stakes” and guide students in presenting their knowledge outside of routine assignments. These might include: 

  • Writing a summary of a presented concept.
  • Drawing a concept map to outline understanding of the topic just presented.
  • Summarizing a lecture or video lesson with one or two sentences showing a basic understanding of the main point.
  • Preparing proposals or outlines of projects in advance for feedback.
  • List three concepts a fellow student might misunderstand about the topic.
  • Explain why today’s lesson was important for the overall class or unit.
  • Write three questions you still have from today’s lesson (or unit).
  • Make a prediction about a class experiment or demonstration. 

Where a summative assessment acts as a high-stakes, one-time opportunity to demonstrate knowledge, something that can cause anxiety in even the best of students, formative assessments feel like part of a normal day’s routine. Formative assessments are also relatively easy to create, implement and evaluate.

Bridging the Gap with Interim Assessment 

Track My Progress is built from the ground up to support learning in Common Core domains and subjects of reading and math. Using a computer adaptive testing model, Track My Progress helps to track student progress with Common Core learning more efficiently and more accurately than what a static test can offer. More importantly, it provides key insights during the school year rather than summative evaluation that primarily serves to categorize students into over and under achievers. 

Track My Progress offers a number of other important features that make it the perfect complement to a robust formative assessment program. Unlike formative assessments, Track My Progress is standardized, which yields scale scores and percentile scores for each student as well as the class as a whole. These standardized scores provide a number of useful qualities that inform decision making.

The scale scores place each student’s learning on an equal interval scale from kindergarten through grade eight. This allows you to see student progress on the same scale over a period of years to fully appreciate the rate of student progress. Furthermore, the scale scores for classes and grades can be used to compare performance to other classes or grades from the current or previous school year. The percentile scores characterize each student’s progress by comparing it to a nationally representative sample. Knowing that a student’s interim assessment score is at the 80th percentile will lead to very different educational decisions for that student than if the score was at the 20th percentile.

Track My Progress is a general outcome assessment. This means that unlike formative assessments, which typically assess one skill on one component of recently presented material, Track My Progress is measuring a variety of skills on material taught recently as well as material that may not have been taught yet or was taught some time ago. This provides a more rigorous view of a student learning and is especially useful in identifying students who may do well with skills and material recently presented and practiced but struggle to retain that learning over the course of the year.

Bridging the Gap with End of Year Assessment 

End of year assessments are typically stressful, long and do not yield immediate results. Track My Progress interim assessments serve as a bridge from formative assessments to the end of year tests by providing features that formative assessments do not offer. Track My Progress interim assessments are predictive of end of year assessments and can tell you within the first week or two of the school year which students are on track to do well with end of year assessments and which students should be discussed in a team meeting as potentially needing more support. Additionally, Track My Progress is online and has a similar look and feel to many end of year assessments and help students practice the process of signing-on and doing their best with an online test. 

Learn more about how Track My Progress offers short, accessible assessments that evaluate key performance in important Common Core domains and subjects and provide the perfect bridge between formative assessment and end of year assessment.

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