Definition of Formative Assessment

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Check Out the New Blog For years, the main reason students were given tests was to understand what they have learned and to grade them. However in the 21st Century, tests took on a new role – to determine what a student has mastered and to reshape instruction. Less emphasis was laid on determining a student’s grade.

The use of formative assessment is not new, however the definition of formative assessment is not very common. The term “formative” says that we are obviously “forming” something, i.e. instruction and student knowledge.

A much known and respected education expert, W. James Popham (2008) provides us with a working definition of formative assessment: Formative assessment is a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students’ achievement of intended instructional outcomes.

Another expert, Popham (2008), refined this working definition.

Formative assessment is a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students’ status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning tactics.

In simpler terms, formative assessments are assessments used to form instruction and to determine student mastery.

How can teachers use formative assessments in their classrooms?

From Professional Learning Board’s online continuing education course for teachers: Formative Assessment

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