Continuous Improvement

Formative Assessments

Formative assessment as defined by FAST SCASS, a consortium of the Council of Chief State School officers (CCSSO), is

a process used by teachers and students during instruction that provides feedback to adjust ongoing teaching and learning to improve students' achievement of intended instructional outcomes.

Formative assessments take place during instruction. They serve as quick check-ins on how well the students are understanding and using the vocabulary and structures and content of the unit of instruction. Virtually all activities completed in class that are designed to build a student’s communication skills can be viewed as formative assessments if there is helpful feedback attached to the activity. The feedback can come from a variety of sources. Students can self-assess how well they are doing by checking their work against a model or checklist. Peers can assess each other using a checklist or model. Teachers can informally assess student progress by monitoring individual, pair and group work. In all cases, the key is in the timeliness and helpfulness of the feedback.

For feedback to be helpful, it should focus on helping students see what they know and are able to do, and what they need to keep working on. Effective feedback takes place during the unit of instruction so that corrective measures can be taken as needed to improve performance. Effective feedback helps students discover what they need to do to improve performance; it doesn’t give students "the right answer." Feedback is ongoing and consistent and clear. It is not helpful to the learner if the teacher keeps moving the targeted performance or reacts differently to the same performance when reviewing it for a second time.

Here are some suggestions for formative assessments:

  • Observation: The teacher monitors students working alone, in pairs, or in groups giving helpful suggestions to improve performance.
  • Ticket out: Students write one question they have, give one example of the new learning, use new vocabulary in a sentence to give to the teacher as they leave class.
  • Think—write—pair—share: The teacher poses a question and asks students to think about how to respond, then write a response, then share their response with another student or groups of students.
  • Quiz: Teacher gives a short quiz focused on how to use a new structure or vocabulary.
  • Matching: Students work with a stack of cards to find synonyms or antonyms or related words.
  • Dialogue journal: Students write about a topic discussed in class, including questions they have about the topic.


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