Formative Assessment; a tool for effective Teaching-Learning experience

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          Just recently we had a school Professional Development (PD) activity conducted by our Academic Quality Manager (AQM) – a person who check the progress of our program and evaluate our teaching practices.  That PD session emphasized the importance of Formative Assessment inside our classrooms, its implication to the learning and teaching experience for both students and teacher, and how can we maximize it inside our class. It is timely, that the PD session we had is parallel to what I have been learned and were discussed this week. Reflecting on what we had during that day and putting these all together in the context of the various types of assessments, it gives me a better understand of how assessment facilitate students to learn effectively as they progress with their learning experience.

Various Types of Assessments

               Going deeper on what is assessment, it introduced us to four major categories of assessment. Where various assessment tools have been created to facilitate effective practices and implementations inside the class. These four assessments are the formal, informal, summative also known as assessment OF learning, and the formative assessment which is also known as assessment FOR learning. Allow me to elaborate and give you and overview of what are the characteristics of these four assessment mentioned here.

1. Formal Assessment

         As what the name entails, this is a type of assessment that makes used of a standardized method of testing. It is a systematic way of evaluating how well the students are progressing in a particular instructional program or course. It assessed the students on how well they have learned the theme skills and concepts of the course. This is a data-driven assessment, where percentiles, stanines or standard scores are most commonly given to indicate students’ progress. The scores here support the conclusion of students’ ability with the entire course or program and it compares their performance with others of their age or grade. (e.g. student reading ability is below average for his age). Examples of this kind of assessment are, formal oral test, long-and-short Answer tests, Multiple choice questions, problem-solving or free-response test styles, and observational assessments and monitoring.

2. Informal Assessment

         If a formal assessment is data-driven, the informal is more on a performance-driven type of assessment. This assessment allows students to showcase their present understanding of the concepts through either structured or unstructured activities. Such activities are, for Structured: Structured interviews, miscue analysis, rating scales, questionnaires, checklists, cloze test, and criterion-reference tests. For unstructured we have: journals, games, debates, brainstorming, storytelling, anecdotal, homework and writing samples.  With this type of assessment, we allow our students to freely commit mistakes for these are parts of their learning experience. Through various informal assessment techniques, either it’s structured or unstructured students can develop, enhance or improve not just their cognitive skills, but also their psychomotor and affective skills.

 3. Summative Assessment

         This assessment means to gauge at a particular point in time the students learning relative to content standards. It can either be standardized test such as state assessment or can either be used as the district and classroom program assessment. In this assessment, it fosters the spirit of accountability towards student’s learning as a whole. Incorporating the sense of responsibility to know by heart the competencies and skills that they need to acquire along the learning process; for they know that these skills will be evaluated at the end of the term or grading period. Also, students learn how to push themselves when needed to acquire deeper understanding and knowledge of the content in such a way that they strive in a high-stake assessment that determines their possible placement and promotion in the next level of their academic endeavors.  Their cognitive skills have high value in this assessment, thus students maximized their learning through memorization or mastery of the content. An example of this assessment is, end-of-unit tests or chapter test, end-of-term or semesters exams, Advanced Placement Exam, or any standardized exam given by educational agency or government.

 4. Formative Assessment

         This type of an assessment refers to the interpretations of data to be used for improving instruction and learning. The measures were interwoven with the instruction and being use for making instructional decisions during the course of instruction. It is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve student’s achievement of intended instructional outcomes (Popham, 2008, p.5). During the process, students are involved in identifying the specific content they must improve on and things they might do to improve. On the other hand, the teacher should determine behavior change and identify content that must be reviewed or retaught. Such as, after scoring the practice quiz with students, the teacher realizes that he needs to review some vocabulary about the topic that he thought students already new. Thus, it is used to determine which approach to teaching should be retained that is producing satisfactory results, which instruction should be revised to improve its effectiveness, and what instructional component that should be abandoned because it’s ineffective.

                  In short, it is a planned process and not just a test in which teachers or students use evidence to determine the degree to which a particular student has mastered a particular skill or body of knowledge. In that way, teacher and students can adjust what they are currently doing with the help of a number of different activities. Formative assessment can be implemented inside the classroom in three different ways. It can either be obtrusive where instruction stop when students take the assessment. Unobtrusive, where there is no interruption of the flow of instruction. And lastly, student-generated where students generate ideas to demonstrate their current status of their understanding on a given topic. (Popham, 2008, p.6). Some popular types of formative assessment tools are exit slips, graphic organizer, self and peer-assessment activity, and think-pair-share.

 
Formative assessment – Tool for effective instruction

            A lot of educational literature have been written to emphasize the great importance and impact of formative assessment inside the classroom. In the article entitled, “Formative and Summative Assessment in the classroom” by C. Garrison and M. Ehringhaus, emphasized the effectiveness of formative assessment in Middle Schools. However, to make this assessment become effective educators or teachers should consider important instructional strategies as both students and teachers take this process. According to them, there are five important key components of this. And these are,

i. Criteria and goal setting

It has a positive impact on the success of student if they understand and know the learning target and the criteria for reaching that goal. Through the use of student works or exemplars of what is expected from them will help students understand where they are, where they need to be and determine an effective process to get there.

ii. Observation

Through keen observation, by looking into if the students are on task or need clarification during instructional activities will assist the teacher in gathering evidence of student learning to inform instructional planning. This evidence can be used as feedback and may be recorded to serve as an anecdotal data that can be used for parent-teacher or student-teacher conference.

iii. Questioning strategy

Creating and asking better questions that elicit higher-thinking skills can give a significant insight into the degree and depth of understanding of the student. These types of questions should lead the way for the students to engage in meaningful discussions that uncover and expand learning. Open-ended questions are a type of questions that best fit this. Moreover, helping students ask better questions is another aspect of maximizing this instructional activity.

iv. Incorporating Self and Peer Assessment

Through the involvement of students in the assessment process,  it creates a learning community within the classroom. To make formative assessment be effective in its practice, students need to be involved in the assessment process as both assessors of their own learning and as resources to other students. Involving the student in the process of assessment has a positive result on their motivation to learn and as go further with the ladder of the learning. Peer evaluation would see each student as resources for understanding and check for excellent result or work against previously established criteria.

v. Student record keeping

From the data and evidence that you and your student have; it can either be in any form (e.g. portfolio, test result), will help students better understand their own learning as evidence of their classroom work. Through reflection of their work and seeing grade beyond its value will help them to see where they started and the progress they are making towards learning goal.

           But the question is, how can we check our formative assessment if it has been implemented effectively and religiously on a day to day basis? Moss, C. M., and Brookhart, S. M. provide as three important central questions to ask along the process of formative assessment. The following were mentioned in the article they wrote entitled, “Advancing Formative Assessment in Every Classroom”. Such questions are: Where am I going? Where am I now? And what strategy or strategies can help me get where I need to go. These questions guide everything that the teacher is doing or will do, everything that student does and everything that both teacher and students are going to do together. For teachers, these three central questions support and assist in recognizing and making use of formative assessment extensively inside the classroom. These will guide them in planning the lesson, monitor the teaching practices and helping the students to become self-regulated learners.

        More than this, Formative assessment can be employed in either  “formal-formative” or “informal-formative” way, depending on the purpose we want to achieve inside our classroom as Shermis (2011) describes it. If our assessment involves deliberate and planned the gathering of information, and interpreting this information in terms of goals to be achieved, and acting upon the information by restructuring instruction, curriculum, or other characteristics of the system then we make use the former. On contrary if we want to elicit information about the ongoing behavior, the level of student achievement related to goal performance at various points of instruction, and interpreting this information in terms of understanding gaps between the goal and current status and using this for repair of instruction; like remediation or reinforcement of some feature of instruction and learning at the time of observation then making use of the latter is viable.

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Unspoken words

          Going back to the PD activity that we have, our AQM emphasizes two important points there. One is our sensitivity as an educational practitioner to see what is really happening inside the head of our students through their unspoken communication. We need to understand how to sense our students if they are really progressing towards their learning as we undertake various instructional activities. Informal assessment has the main role in achieving this initially.  Thus, through observation, it’s very important for us to learn and understand the facial expressions, body movements, and posture, gestures, eye-contact, space and voice of our students as they interact with us inside the classroom. Second, improving our communication skill by making use of the art of good questioning that elicits deep thinking. Not just that, these questions should open an avenue for interactions through dialogues and healthy discourse. He further emphasizes that our formative assessment should serve as a bridge between teaching and learning.

 The impact of assessment on teacher and student

         Educational researchers have a firm body of evidence that formative assessment works well inside the classroom. According to Black and William (1998), it is an essential component of a classroom and that its development can raise standards of achievement. It works because it has a direct effect on both teacher and student. Furthermore, by studying the effectiveness of the instructional decisions, teacher learn about effective teaching and that would result in teachers’ quality. It promotes professional learning that is relevant, authentic and transformational for teachers.  Armed with the new perspective, teachers can take constructive action in their classrooms. By collecting and using evidence that works and exactly what does not inside the classroom; critically examining their own knowledge, working assumptions and practices teachers become aware of exactly where they need to focus their change and improvement efforts in order to raise student achievement.

          Moreover, employing this type of assessment will inform students their own understanding when timely adjustment can be made. It fosters higher order thinking skills or deeper thinking as student reflect positively on their progress of learning. Through formative assessment, students can be guided and comprehend where they are going, where they need to be and to know the effective process of getting there in their learning ladder. It allows students to express their thoughts through dialogue, writing, and any form of instructional activities that uncover and expand their learning. In the process, peer and self-assessment are being utilized and has a great role in seeing each learner as a source of understanding and checking for what are the excellent work against the previously established goals. As a result, students will have self-confidence, growth mindset and develop a metacognitive attitude towards learning. In conclusion, the more we know about individual students as they engage in the learning process, the better we can adjust our instruction to ensure that all students continue to achieve by moving forward in their learning.


References:

[1] Formal vs. Informal Assessment. Weaver, Brenda. Retrieved from 
https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/formal-vs-informal-assessments/

[2] Types of Formal Assessment in Education. Stuart, James. Retrieved from
http://classroom.synonym.com/types-formal-assessments-education-4208.html

[3] Informal Methods of Assessment. G. S. Morrison.Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall.Jul 15, 2013. Retrieved from https://www.education.com/reference/article/informal-methods-assessment/

[4] Informal Assessment in Education Evaluation: Implications for Bilingual Education Program. Navarete, C. et al.
NCBE Program Information guide.1990.3 Retrieved from http://www.ncela.us/files/rcd/BE017505/PIG3.pdf

[5] Informal Assessment: the Basics. Forlizzi, L. A.Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.2014. Retrieved from http://aded.tiu11.org/disted/FamLitAdminSite/fn04assessinformal.pdf   

[6] Formative Assessment and Standards-Based Grading. Marzano, R.J. Marzano Research Laboratory. Retrieved from http://pepstep571.wikispaces.com/file/view/Marzano+Formative+Assessment.pdf

[7] Garrison, C., Ehringhaus, M. Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom. Measured Progress. New Hampshire. Retrieved from http://schools.nyc.gov/NR/rdonlyres/33148188-6FB5-4593-A8DF 8EAB8CA002AA/0/2010_11_Formative_Summative_Assessment.pdf

 

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