FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTOn Formative Evaluation

Formative assessment is a process of improving the learning process and cultivating students’ knowledge.

On formative assessment and evaluation

  • Formative evaluation of the learning process is defined as a pedagogical dialogue that promotes mutual cooperation between teachers and students in the process of evaluating, controlling, and guiding and individual’s approach to learning in order to improve the effectiveness of the learning process and ensure that the evaluation of the knowledge acquired at the end of said learning process is as accurate as possible. (source: Komljanc, N. (2004) Vrednost povratne informacije v procesu ocenjevanja. Doctoral Dissertation, The Faculty of Arts, Ljubljana)
  • Many countries are already using formative evaluation. Slovenia has been implementing, developing, and discovering formative education and evaluation for the last fifteen years. Formative education is part of the Visible Learning process.
  • Formative assessment and evaluation is a PROCESS for improving the learning. IT IS NOT A GRADING SYSTEM.
  • Formative assessment means that, instead of analysing students’ past mistakes or even going so far as to judge them based on their grades, students receive feedback in the form of advice on how to improve their knowledge (D. Wiliam).

Basic principles and values

  • The student is given control over their learning process (and the teacher no longer has to tighten their grip on the students to maintain control). Measures are put in place to help the student lead the learning process.
  • The student is included in a process of self-regulating their knowledge acquisition.
  • Certain elements of formative evaluation (assessing prior knowledge, outlining learning goals, gathering evidence, criteria definition, and self-evaluation) are integrated to form a unit. Written tests or mock exams are given back to students containing quality feedback in a form that does not allow comparison between students (this means no percentages, grades, or counting points). By returning the students’ tests or assignments we ensure that each individual receives the feedback they need to improve their knowledge and skills. Teaching and demonstrations of knowledge are constantly intertwining.
  • Students receive quality feedback in the form of advice on how to improve their knowledge or skills.

Identifying formative assessment in the classroom

  • Students are independent and active (they work, think, contribute, and ask questions) instead of playing the role of passive listeners.
  • During class students work more than the teacher.
  • Students are aware of their goals, know how to distinguish between what they already know and what they still need to learn, and are actively developing self-help strategies.
  • The teacher communicates differently. They use phrases such as “You will show me…” instead of “I will be testing…” Instead of the teacher offering the students an answer or a solution, they ask the students additional questions and inspire the students to think for themselves, communicate with one another, and creatively problem solve.
  • The teacher lets the students guide and control the learning process. This doesn’t mean that the students learn everything by themselves and that the teacher no longer engages in explanations in front of the class. Formative evaluation is a gradual process of implementing self-control and self-regulation of the learning process into the syllabus.
  • The students are constantly given the chance to demonstrate their knowledge and progress (allowing the teacher to collect evidence of knowledge).
  • Teachers and students use feedback to track their progress and knowledge acquisition. Judging the students’ progress in the form of grades, percentages, or points is gradually being replaced.

Formative assesment is not:

  • bureaucratic (there are no lists of goals hanging from the classroom walls, nor knowledge criteria glued to the pages of students’ notebooks);
  • a means of tightening teachers’ control over the students or increasing the number of tests and mock exams;
  • a partial-grading system (a system using symbols, percentages, or points) since the partial-grading system is not in accordance with the grading policy.

A few additional facts

  • Formative evaluation improves knowledge acquisition by 2-3 times.
  • Proper feedback doubles students’ learning speed.
  • Formative evaluation helps reduce the differences between boys and girls as well as the differences between children from more or less supportive environments and different socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Grades mainly affect a student’s ego and trigger emotional responses but have little influence on a student’s effort and achievements.
  • Grades interfere with the learning process and do not contribute to knowledge improvement. In fact, grades can even negatively impact the learning process.

(Summed up from the research in D. Wiliam’s book: Embedded Formative Assessment)

  • A grade/mark is not quality feedback because it doesn’t let the student know how well they are progressing.

This website was created with the intention of sharing examples of good practice that I developed during 15 years of working in self-regulated education (the innovative project Paths to Higher Quality Education, a More Sustainable Syllabus, and Longer Lasting Knowledge) and formative evaluation (the developmentally applicable project called the Development of Didactic Knowledge Assessment, working with Slovenia’s National Education Institute, and the Erasmus+ project)

Apart from researching and gathering personal experience through working with various teachers and schools, I regularly update this website with ideas for formative evaluation in the classroom.

Video presentation of my process of formative assessment.