5 Strategies for Embedding Formative Assessment for Increased Student Achievement

Increasing student engagement is the goal of every educator. By implementing the 5 Strategies of Formative Assessment, not only will student engagement increase, but student motivation and student achievement will increase as well.
This is not a checklist, but a process of engagement. If a teacher starts with a global view of what they want to accomplish, creating the process can reveal itself.
We have to get in the mind set of reverse engineering the process of achievement. If you want your students to move from skill set “A” to skill set “D” it requires transformation though experience.
The skill set required to teach has changed dramatically over the past two decade. It’s no longer a simple set of objectives tested to reveal whether students pass or fail. With the 21st Century education in our global economy, the rules have changed. The following list is an overview of the knowledge, skills, work, habits, and character traits often associated with 21st century skills:
  • Critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing information
  • Research skills and practices, interrogative questioning
  • Creativity, artistry, curiosity, imagination, innovation, personal expression
  • Perseverance, self-direction, planning, self-discipline, adaptability, initiative
  • Oral and written communication, public speaking and presenting, listening
  • Leadership, teamwork, collaboration, cooperation, facility in using virtual work spaces
  • Information and communication technology (ICT) literacy, media and internet literacy, data interpretation and analysis, computer programming
  • Civic, ethical, and social-justice literacy
  • Economic and financial literacy, entrepreneurialism
  • Global awareness, multicultural literacy, humanitarianism
  • Scientific literacy and reasoning, the scientific method
  • Environmental and conservation literacy, ecosystems understanding
  • Health and wellness literacy, including nutrition, diet, exercise, and public health and safety
Common Core Standards present learning outcomes around many of these cross disciplinary skills. Maintaining a rigorous curriculum and a rigorous set of behavioral expectations has proven to be a challenge. But, if we get back to the idea of reverse engineering the learning outcomes we set for students, the path becomes (a bit) more clear.
Formative assessment offers strategies to help guide teachers’ professional and intuitive delivery of meaningful curriculum when the purpose and process of formative assessment is clear. Below is a list of 5 essential strategies of formative assessment. Consider these when constructing learning experiences for your students:

Strategy 1 (Purpose)

Clarify, sharing, and understanding learning intentions

Strategy 2 (Path)

Engineering effective discussions, tasks, and activities that elicit evidence of learning

Strategy 3 (Coach)

Providing Feedback that moves learners forward

Strategy 4 (Collaboration)

Activating students as learning sources for one another

Strategy 5 (Accountability)

Activating students as owners of their learning

How to Embed Formative Assessment

One lesson can contain these 5 strategies or they can be looped to create a progression of learning within a unit of study. When developing curriculum or creating lesson plans intentionally move through each strategy. The more you implement this process, the more effectively you implement the process.

How to Implement the 5 Strategies of Formative Assessment

At the start, proceed with a clear intention, mindful of its progression. You’re already an expert in your field of study, so when you gain confidence, you can modify the order of this process to meet the needs of students.
Let me explain. The first few times you use this process, use it as a road map. Over time, as you become more familiar with the students needs and the process, you can rearrange the order of these strategies or repeat specific strategies throughout the learning process as needed to maximize the learning for your student population.

What Drives Formative Assessment?

Data is important to formative assessment. Data is meant to drive instruction.  However, data comes in various forms. There are the tradition measures of student data derived from high stakes testing and district achievement tests. Teachers also collect data. Some data is collected and formally recorded while other data is collected and not recorded. Teachers have the luxury of collecting data informally: anecdotal notes, exit tickets, discussions, observations are able to classified as formative assessment if used to drive instruction.

Release the Formative Assessment Myth

A myth surrounding formative assessment is that all assessments must be recorded. This is simply not true. Every day you make instructional decisions based on students’ past performance. If you recorded ALL observations of student understanding or misunderstanding of every learning outcome you teach, you’d need an administrative assistant.

Benchmark Student Progress

Take time to create specific formative assessments that serve as benchmarks of progress towards your predetermined learning outcomes. Record these. Benchmarking is important to managing effective instruction. But, please, for the love of all that is holy, release yourself of the burden of thinking that only recorded information serves as formative assessment. Some of the most impactful formative assessment is informal, as it helps teachers know what their students need during the instructional process.

Here’s What All Educator Know…

Our education system is at an impasse. We’re facing times of great uncertainty despite the excessive amount of data collected in our learning communities. I like to refer to the many facets of our education system as the “Eduscape”. Policy makers, decision makers, economy, students’ home environment, individual student needs, educational resources, technology, teacher education, professional development and even students health and wellness all contribute to the “Eduscape”.

The Eduscape

The Eduscape includes a myriad of subsets that all impact the trajectory of our professional experiences. One of the greatest influences on decision making in the Eduscape is data. We all know that data should be used to move forward, increase accountability, and create invigorating learning environments. But, data in and of itself has no power. When shared with the decision makers and governing bodies, the power assigned to data is at the mercy of its leaders and their free will to give it the power they deem necessary and appropriate. (I gasp…)

Hold on to Hope

That being said, I urge teachers everywhere, to hold on the hope at the grass roots level. Your classrooms are where students are nurtured to become enlightened, productive contributors to society. You do more than deliver information. You observe, interact, and support students. You give support when needed and nurture their gifts and talents. You bring the world to your classroom and help the students take your classroom our into the world.
All this is done with the sole intention of raising a child to meet their potential or even supersede it. Decision makers and governing bodies siphon through data and research to make their decisions, but you are driven with a greater purpose that extends far beyond paper and ink. You, my dear friend, create an environment of learning motivated by heart and driven by your expertise

Truth Be Told…

Teachers have limited authority to make decisions within the “Eduscape”. But, we can make decision that impact our students each day. These daily decisions should not be minimized. After all, you impact your students in ways that have residual effects in their lives for years to come academically and personally.

Data Does Not Have Super Powers

Data doesn’t hold a candle to your super power! I invite you to implement the 5 strategies above and continue making a positive impact on your students in ways only you can. When testing out these strategies, first use them as a road map, then use them as a guide, and eventually use them as a framework of understanding to enhance the process of learning in your classroom.
With experience you will transcend the process of implementation, recognizing all the strategies you already implement in your classroom that are in fact formative assessment, and your intentional implementation for these 5 strategies will become an intuitive process, supporting you as you continue to develop your craft.

Last Words…

I leave you with this: release yourself of the burden of change and decision making not in your control. Muster up the courage to remain confident in your skills, your intention, and you intuition. You are a professional and an expert in your area of concentration. Maintain your drive by taking joy in all you do that no data in the world could reveal.

How Do You Use Formative Assessment in Your Classroom?

Do you have some tips for other teachers? We’d love to hear about your formative assessment strategies you use to engage students and drive your instruction? Likewise, if you have a challenge with formative assessment share in the comments below. The Teacherpreneur Cafe is here to support your teaching journey!

About Vivian Beck

I am a blogging teacher, teaching people how to blog. Check out the tutorials and you can start your blog today.

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