Tuesday, March 4, 2014

10 principles of formative assessment

In the latest issues of Educational Leadership, Carol Ann Tomlinson discusses the 10 principles that should guide the use of formative assessment.  Here is the shortened version for people who are on the run.

1. Help students understand the role of formative assessment.  

One of the issues that our teachers are dealing with right now is how students may not take these assessments seriously.  The student response is typically, "Oh, I thought since this wasn't graded I didn't need to try." Grading hinders the use of FA, but that's for another blog.  When we use formative assessment we need to thoroughly explain to kids what this is for and why.  

2. Begin with KUD's.

Tomlinson defines KUD as, "What is most important for students to KNOW, UNDERSTAND, and be able to DO as a result of the segment of learning.(p. 12)" When using formative assessment I believe it is important to pinpoint and establish our learning intentions.  Do we talk about the lesson objective and do we write it on the board?  We need to talk about what it is we are trying to learn.  

3. Make room for student differences.

Flexibility in how students are able to show what they know, understand, and are able to do is important.  Is there another way to check understanding? 

4. Provide instructive feedback.

Tomlinson explains that feedback should help the student know what to do to improve the next time around.  Comments like, "good job,"you got it," or "try again," do not provide the student with enough feedback to get better.  We need to guide them in their learning.  

5. Make feedback user friendly.

Tomlinson stresses the importance of how we provide feedback.  She states that, "feedback must result in a student thinking about how to improve (p. 12)."

"Praise and shame shut down learning far more often than they catalyze it.  It's more fruitful to straightforwardly share with students their particular next steps in the learning process. (p. 12)" 

6. Assess persistently.

In our district class we are reading Embedded Formative Assessment.  Our latest assignment had teachers create a formative assessment, assess the students, review the data, and then blog about their next steps.  Assessment for learning should become a habit and something that is done on a consistent basis. According Tomlinson, "Formative assessment should permeate the class period. (p. 13)" Teachers should constantly be checking for understanding and adjusting instruction on the fly.  
"Formative assessment is not ancillary to effective teaching.  It is the core of their professional work. (p. 13)" 
7. Engage students with formative assessment.

We need to include students in the assessment process.  They need to know why.  Ultimately it's about their learning and getting them to an acceptable level.  Tomlinson recommends peer feedback and working along side students as they struggle to understand.  
"Students also need to be involved in thoughtfully examining teacher feedback, asking questions when the feedback is not clear, and developing plans that specify how they will use that feedback to benefit their own academic growth."  Carol Ann Tomlinson
8. Look for patterns.

It's about the data.  Much of our discussion this morning centered on creating data.  It can be so simple as how many students need enrichment and how many need reteaching. (Great video on this concept here

We use a lot of anecdotal evidence (which has its place) but where is the actual data?  One may assume something and be completely wrong.  Data tells the truth.  

9.  Plan instruction around content requirements and student needs.

Tomlinson states, "there is little point in spending time on formative assessments unless it leads to modification of teaching and learning plans (p. 14)" 

Reteaching is not more of the same.  Not all kids will get a concept the first time.  What will you do different the second time around to bring clarity?  Having them redo the same worksheet is not reteaching.  Reteaching is teaching differently because those kids didn't pick it up the first go around.  It means changing the method you used.  
"An assessment is really only a formative assessment when teachers glean evidence about student performance, interpret that evidence, and use it to provide teaching that is more likely to benefit student learning than the instruction those teachers would have delivered if they had continued forward without using what they learned through assessment." Dylan Wiliam 
10. Repeat the process. 

Using formative assessment is about developing a habit of always checking for understanding and modifying our next steps. 

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