What is a formative assessment? What is the purpose of formative assessments?
Definition of Formative Assessment: Formative assessment refers to a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course. Formative assessments help teachers identify concepts that students are struggling to understand, skills they are having difficulty acquiring, or learning standards they have not yet achieved so that adjustments can be made to lessons, instructional techniques, and academic support.
What do formative assessments look like in my class? How have they changed?
Sure, these are easy to grade, and some students say they like them. Mine said they liked them because “they are easy.” They are mainly identification, translation or conjugation (lower/mid levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy) and one or two word answers (Novice Low/Mid).
More importantly, I found that they were not prepping the students for the summative assessments or real life interactions. I’m not saying to immediately throw them all out, but to think about other options.
This was a BIG shift for me, but I saw results that I could not ignore: the students’ performance (on assessments and on the spot) improved much faster and they were reaching higher proficiency levels than they did in the past.
If communication is the final goal, then summative assessments should reflect that, and formatives should prepare them for summatives.
Formative “Quick” Checks
Here’s one where I asked a question at the end of class and they responded. While they were answering, I walked around and did a quick check to mark their sub-level. It provided time for some quick verbal feedback from me as well.
Here’s a question I wrestled with for awhile: If formatives are to identify concepts that students are struggling with so adjustments can be made to future lessons, should they receive a grade on this that affects their overall grade?
In real life, if my goal is to play well in a tennis match, I would not play a match every day. I need some practice and coaching to improve before the next match. Then I have the chance to try something (take a risk!) new before I try it in a match.
Now you’ve read my thoughts and some of my formative assessments. I’d love hear your thoughts and examples for formatives! There’s not only one way to teach a language!