Let’s Clarify a Myth Surrounding Formative Assessment

One Major Misconception of Formative Assessment

Formative assessment has been in the forefront of eduction for years, intact, over a decade. However, in the recent years it has been touted as the ‘new’ method in education that maximizes learning.
Research supports the positive impact on teaching and learning, and teachers have proven it’s success repeatedly over the year. Due to professionals at the grassroots level, in the classroom, educators across the country have learned to embrace the processes and methods within formative assessment and adapt it to meet the needs of their learning communities, inspire of constraints that face them.
When blended with a classroom teacher’s expertise of pedagogies, content areas, and classroom management, formative assessment is a powerful approach to maximizing teaching and learning.
Unfortunately some leaders in education perceive formative assessment as a checklist that ‘gets things done’ and aligns to common core standards. To the teachers across the nation who have had formative assessment and standards based grading thrust upon them by misguided administration who believe implementation is as a easy as giving a book on the topic to the staff, I express my sympathies.
The problem with forcing the formative assessment shift into a learning environment is that it destroys the confidence of even the most seasoned teachers. There is one myth about formative assessment that must be destroyed, and it is this…
Formative Assessment is NOT a quantitative instructional checklist 
teachers attend to while planning!
Formative assessment, and strandards based grading for that matter, CANNOT be an impulsive decision by one decision maker at the helm.
The process of moving towards such a significant shift in a school or an entire district, has to happen through a journey of growth where shared values are developed for each individual teacher, while nurturing the shared beliefs of how students learn best.
If educators are forced to implement the process of formative assessment and standards based grading without the opportunity to investigate its elements and nuances as they present themselves in their current context and conditions, formative assessment will surely fail.
Let’s get this clear, formative assessment does have clear processes and procedures – yes, theory – that could, in fact, be reduced to a checklist, and this may be helpful to those in the stage of exploring F.A. But the power lies in the beautiful intersection of procedures and intuition.
Magical teaching and learning happens at 
the intersection of highly effective instruction and 
professional intuition of a confident instructor.
This is where teachers become artists. It is the real magic of the teaching and learning community. It is easily observed, but more difficult to be detailed for the sake of evaluation and reporting. If evaluators understood the complexity of what contributes to ‘excellent teaching’ they would understand that formative assessment requires a shared experienced across their learning community.
They would respect their staff and share information that encourages dialogue encouraging teacher to explore then processes of formative assessment and engage in professional reflection around their experiences. After multiple experiences in a variety of contexts, wise leadership would allow for further discussion among staff members to flesh out the strengths and weakness.
In the end, the implementation of formative assessment, requires decision makers to move beyond the belief that a book and a checklist reviewed during a staff meeting or two is enough to implement the multi-demontional formative assessment, with any kind of integrity.
Before ANY significant, district-wide, curricular changes are made, decision makers and educational leadership should required to educate themselves and be required to present a collection of evidence and data that reveals THEIR deep understanding of the proposed shift BEFORE they impose that shift on the learning community at large.
Rant Over

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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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