Formative assessment, while not a new concept by any means, has been receiving a lot of attention recently due to discussions regarding student learning loss and the need for more digitized solutions for remote learners.

There’s been discussion in recent years about what formative assessment truly is. According to the Council of Chief State School Officers, formative assessment is the “planned, ongoing process used by all students and teachers during learning and teaching to elicit and use evidence of student learning to improve student understanding of intended disciplinary learning outcomes and support students to become self-directed learners.”

Ultimately, in the classroom, a teacher’s instructional action that is framed by a learning objective, skill, concept, or standard that invites students to demonstrate progress or mastery toward that established goal is considered formative assessment. This invites the notion that countless teacher and student interactions can be designated as an assessment tool. But what actually makes formative assessment one of the most important tools in an educator’s instructional practice?

Why formative assessment is so important

Before outlining formative assessment’s undeniable importance, context regarding assessments as a whole is warranted. Oftentimes, schools use different types of assessment to inform instructional decisions at various levels of the school culture (i.e., classroom level, school level, district level, etc.).

Dr. Tara Gleason is the Lead Assessment Editor at Learning A-Z. She is a graduate of St. John’s University’s Educational Leadership doctoral program.

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