Formative assessment is a process that engages teachers and students in gathering, interpreting, and using evidence about what and how students are learning in order to facilitate further student learning during a short period of time. The process offers the potential to guide educator decisions about midstream adjustments to instruction that address learner needs in a timely manner. Formative assessment can be implemented in classrooms in various ways. For example, formative assessment can be quick and informal, such as giving students "I learned..." prompts to reflect on and discuss their progress toward lesson objectives. Formative assessment can also be more formal and involve multiple components, such as curriculum-based measurement, to frequently track and analyze individual student learning for the purpose of modifying instruction as warranted (Black & Wiliam, 1998a). Members of Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Central's Formative Assessment Research Alliance, including principals and district administrators, indicated that teachers in the region vary widely in their understanding of formative assessment and how to use it. They wished to focus professional development efforts on formative assessment practices that have evidence of effectiveness for promoting student learning. To address this need, this review identifies studies that examine the effectiveness of formative assessment and provides an overall average estimate of its effectiveness. Alliance members also expressed concern that teachers have difficulty finding time to use formative assessment. One approach to minimizing the formative assessment burden on teachers is to involve students more actively in the process (Black & Wiliam, 1998a). This review also compares the effectiveness of different types of formative assessment, including those directed by students and those directed by other agents, such as educators and computer software programs. The review team conducted a comprehensive search to locate research on formative assessment interventions. After screening studies for relevance, researchers certified in the U.S. Department of Education's What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) standards and procedures coded and rated each of 76 relevant studies using systematic, rigorous, scientific evidence standards modeled after the WWC study review process and standards (U.S. Department of Education, 2014b). The review team identified 23 studies that it determined had been conducted rigorously enough to have confidence that the formative assessment interventions caused the observed effects on student outcomes. Twenty-two of the studies compared academic outcomes for students participating in formative assessment with academic outcomes for students who did not participate in formative assessment. Nineteen of the 22 studies provided enough information to calculate an effect size, which describes the magnitude of the effect of the intervention. When examining the results across these 19 studies, the review team concluded that: (1) Overall, formative assessment had a positive effect on student academic achievement. On average across all the studies, students who participated in formative assessment performed better on measures of academic achievement than those who did not; (2) Formative assessment used during math instruction had larger effects, on average, than did formative assessment used during reading and writing instruction; (3) Across all subject areas (math, reading, and writing), formative assessment had larger effects on student academic achievement when other agents, such as a teacher or a computer program, directed the formative assessment; (4) For math, both student-directed formative assessment and formative assessment directed by other agents were effective; (5) For reading, other-directed formative assessment was more effective than student-directed formative assessment; and (6) For writing, the effect of other-directed formative assessment on student academic achievement was small, and not enough evidence was available to determine the effectiveness of student-directed formative assessment. The following are appended: (1) Methodology; (2) Detailed research findings; (3) Findings from studies that compared two different types of formative assessment; and (4) Studies rated "does not meet standards."
ERIC DescriptorsAcademic Achievement, Achievement Gap, Computer Uses in Education, Data Analysis, Data Collection, Data Use, Educational Research, Elementary School Students, Formative Evaluation, Instructional Effectiveness, Literacy, Literature Reviews, Mathematics, Mathematics Achievement, Mathematics Instruction, Peer Evaluation, Reading Achievement, Reading Instruction, Self Evaluation (Individuals), Student Evaluation, Writing Instruction
Central | Publication Type:
Descriptive Study | Publication
Date: January 2017