'Thumbs Up' photo (c) 2006, Gregg O'Connell - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

(Thumbs are one of my favorite forms of formative assessment)

Be sure to read my Ed Week column, Ways to Include Students in the Formative Assessment Process.

As the new school year approaches (we go back in two more weeks), I’ve been thinking a bit on how I can be a little more intentional and strategic in using formative assessment.

For those who might be new to the term, formative assessments are ongoing practices that help both the teacher and student evaluate and reflect on how they are both doing, and what changes either or both might need to make to become a more effective teacher and learner (I’d love it if someone left a comment with a better definition). I use a lot of these in my classroom, ranging from regular cloze (fill-in-the-blank) and reading fluency assessments, to “show me with thumbs,” to observations. I feel that I use them pretty effectively, but also feel that I could do a better job applying what I learn from them in the classroom.

Again, for people who are new to these terms, formative assessments are often contrasted with summative assessments. Summative assessments are the mid-term and final exams, benchmarks, and state tests that we give. They’re designed to, at least theoretically, tell us what a student has learned and what she/he hasn’t learned.

Formative assessments are generally considered more useful to teachers, which is why I’m thinking about them. To quote Robert Marzano from The Art and Science of Teaching, formative assessments “might be one of the more powerful weapons in a teacher’s arsenal.” (p. 13).

Here are some resources that I’ve found useful in my reflections. is sort of a beginning of a “The Best…” list, since I know there is a lot out there, and a lot of people who know more than me about it. So I hope you’re contribute suggestions.

Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About Formative Assessment:

Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom comes from The National Middle School Association

Formative Assessment Strategies

Formative Assessment comes from LEARN NC

Here’s a Slideshare presentation on Formative Assessment

Here’s a very nice document from Learner Centered Initiatives

And I thought the Wikipedia page on Formative Assessment was pretty decent, too.

Measuring reading fluency is one of the formative assessments we regularly do at our school. Basically, we have students read two separate passages to us for one minute each three times each year.

Of course, there is a little more to it than that…

Reading Fluency: What, Why, and How? by Mike Dunn is a very good short explanation of how to do that kind of assessment.

Why Formative Assessments Matter is a nice and useful article by Rebecca Alber in Edutopia. It provides simple and helpful suggestions for teachers.

How to Look at Multiple-Choice Assessments Formatively by Heather Wolpert-Gawron at Edutopia.

One Test to Rule Them All is by Jason Buell.

Why Is Formative Assessment So Misunderstood? is a good blog post from ASCD In Service, and Formative Assessment—A Process, Not a Test is a useful Ed Week article.

The Best Value in Formative Assessment is from ASCD’s Educational Leadership.

Here’s a nice short video from ASCD on formative assessment:

Are Your Assessments Good, Not So Good, or…Great?

(In)Formative Assessment: The Key to Accountability is by Bill Younglove and appeared in California English (you need to scroll down to page 21).

New SEDL Report On Formative Assessment Is Great On Research, But Surprisingly Lacking In Practical Value

Staying Focused on Formative Assessment is by Rick Wormeli.

The Fundamentals of Formative Assessment is from ASCD.

22 Easy Formative Assessment Techniques for Measuring Student Learning is from The Northwest Evaluation Association.

I’m not a big fan of using digital devices for formative assessment, but I know it works well for others. Here are some related resources from NEA:

Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post One

Digital Technology Tools for Implementing Formative Assessment – Post Two

Accurately Defining Formative Assessment is from Teach Learn Grow.

33 Digital Tools for Advancing Formative Assessment in the Classroom is from The Northwest Evaluation Association.

What if we approached testing this way? appeared in The Washington Post.

Efficient Ways to Check for Understanding is from Edutopia.

10 Assessments You Can Perform In 90 Seconds is from Teach Thought.

8 Formative Assessment Data Sources that Help Students Become Better Learners is from Teach Learn Grow.

Do you understand? is from TEFL Reflections.

56 Examples of Formative Assessment is by David Wees.


Formative Assessments are ‘Powerful’ is the title of one of my Education Week Teacher posts.

English teachers, are you asking the right questions? is a really interesting post from The British Council.

Formative Assessment: The Right Question at the Right Time is from Peter DeWitt’s Ed Week blog and shares a number of practical ideas.

60 Non-Threatening Formative Assessment Techniques is from Teach Thought.

10 Things You Don’t Know About Formative Assessment is by Angela Stockman.

30+ Formative Assessment Strategies is from EduChalkboard.

Formative Assessment – Is it a Silver Bullet? from Further Pedagogy is one of the best pieces I’ve seen on the topic.

UNDERSTANDING FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: A SPECIAL REPORT is from Education Week.

It’s Time to Co-Design Assessments With Students is by Starr Sackstein.

Formative Assessment: It’s Not Just Another Thing to Do is from Teach Learn Grow.

Formative Assessment Practices in Successful Middle Level Classrooms is from AMLE.

Student Self Assessment and Self-Regulation – A Cornerstone of Successful Formative Assessment is from Teach Learn Grown. Coincidentally, I published a post at the British Council on the same topic this week – Strategies for self assessment.

Trying on Formative Assessment in Your Classroom – How to Keep It Simple is by Kathy Dyer.

Again, feel free to offer additional suggestions.

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