What is Formative Assessment?

A form of reflection upon one's performance that enables students to gauge their own progress and see what they have learned, Formative assessment is used in a range of schools across the US - and even further afield. It aims to help all students - regardless of their ability - in reaching their potential. But how exactly does it work? And in what ways can it be carried out in the classroom setting?

When looking at the role of Formative assessment in measuring a student's progress and success, it is important to remember results gained from the assessment don't normally contribute to an overall mark or grade. Instead, the process looks at helping pupils to examine their own learning, rather than a teacher or external examiner always having to do this.

With this in mind, the reflection should be looked upon as a learning experience. In theory, it is not a test; instead, it is an indicator of progress and something to learn from. Those conducting the Formative assessment may analyze student's responses to questions, how they ask questions, and how they cooperate and make contributions as part of a group of classmates.

One of the stand out benefits of assessing using formative techniques is that it has multiple positive outcomes. Take a presentation in front of the class as a common example of a formative activity. Not only does the pupil learn more about the subject they are presenting on, but their skills of researching, communicating and organizing are also enhanced.

Because Formative assessment addresses such a wide breadth of skills (some of which are detailed above), it helps students to acquire knowledge that is helpful in the later stages of their lives. It may also give them the vital boost that they need to succeed in formal examinations at the end of the academic year.

Students who partake in the assessment are usually required to make thorough, effective use of their self-evaluation skills, which means looking and analyzing their own performances in microscopic detail. Goal setting is another key element of the process, and pupils can carry the knowledge of how to set themselves realistic targets into their adult lives - a useful mechanism when dealing with family members, friends and employers out side of the classroom.

Other benefits to students of such self-reflection include increased motivation to work and achieve to the best of their ability, plus a heightened sense of being responsible for one's own achievement in school and normal life.

Even teachers can seize several advantages. Through being able to determine different students' level of attainment, they can group pupils into groups based upon their ability. Using this information, they can plan specific lessons to cater to what various groups need to work on in order to see progression.

With everything considered, there really are a whole range of exercises to be explored and taken advantage of when it comes to Formative assessment. Students and teachers alike will reap the rewards in no time at all, and pupils of all capabilities may be better positioned in reaching their full potentials.