Ongoing Formative Assessment and Feedback

Formative Assessment Process

Whether engaging in online or offline teaching, educators should utilize the formative assessment process as a guide for planning, monitoring, adjusting, and responding to student learning. Research has found that formative assessment positively impacts student learning (Black & Wiliam, 1998), involves the student (Chappuis, Stiggins, Chappuis, & Arter, 2012), and supports students in pinpointing challenges in their learning (Marshall & Drummond, 206). Formative assessment should be viewed as a planned, ongoing process and not a “one time” event. Therefore, educators engaging in online or offline teaching will need to consider how they will monitor, adjust, and respond to learning using formative assessment results.

The following considerations will help guide educators with planning:

  • Include a plan to check for student understanding during the learning. This includes strategies to make instructional adjustments for students that have and have not grasped learning concepts.
    • Include methods of communication to engage students in the formative assessment process as users and consumers of feedback.
    • Include multiple opportunities for students to use feedback to move towards the intended learning goal.
    • Include how they will use evidence to determine mastery of the intended learning and how they will track student progress.
    • Include how they will connect with families to communicate student progress.

Where are we going?

  • Instructional planning that includes content standards, checks for understanding, and involvement of students.
  • Intentional plans to gather evidence of student learning.
  • Use of models that can guide students towards proficiency.
  • Teacher engages in instruction using a variety of strategies.
  • Students respond to instruction which provides insight into their thinking, misconceptions, and understanding of content.

What do my students understand now?

  • Teacher interprets how their students respond to instruction and use it to gauge student understanding relative to the intended learning targets.
  • Teacher gathers and tracks evidence of student learning.

How do we get to the learning target?

  • Teacher makes adjustments to unstruction based on student understanding.
  • Teacher continues to refine strategies included in instruction to move students towards the learning target.
  • Teacher provides students with effective feedback to move the student towards the learning target.
  • Student engages in regular self-assessment opportunities to reflect on their progress relative to the learning target.
  • Students engage in peer-to-peer feedback.

What is Feedback?

Feedback is information that helps students progress towards reaching a learning goal.

  • Connected to a learning goal or learning target
  • Actionable
  • Specific
  • Timely
  • On-going
  • Dialogic

Balancing Praise and Feedback

While the goal of feedback is to provide students with actionable steps in meeting the learning goal, it is important to acknowledge the positive aspects or actions of the student’s work. It is a delicate balance to give students clear steps to achieve the intended learning goal while simultaneously building their self-efficacy. The ultimate goal is for students to show proficiency in the learning while building their own strategies for addressing opportunities in their own work.

On-going Feedback Cycle

Teacher feedback and student response should be viewed as a continuum where students are active participants in the feedback cycle. Building the student-teacher relationship is of utmost importance. Beginning with praise sets a tone for the student; it reinforces the teacher’s belief in the student’s ability to reach the learning goal. Feedback is beneficial to the user if the user understands the feedback the teacher gives. Any feedback should be centered around the questions of:

  • “Where am I at?”
  • “Where am I going?”
  • “Where will I go next?”

Possible Teacher Action(s)

  • Screencasts
  • Audio comments
  • Typed comments
  • Handwritten comments
  • Peer-led comments
  • Video conferencing
  • Phone calls
  • Providing various models of student work
  • Use of emojis or digital stickers

Possible Student Response(s)

  • Reviewing Typed comments
  • One-on-one video conference with teacher
  • Peer feedback (video conference, Flipgrid, Padlet, Typed comments in Google Docs, Audio Comments)
  • Self-reflection
  • Self-assessment – Where am I at? Where am I going? What actions will I take to get to my goal?

Student Action(s)

  • Create revision plan
  • Make adjustments based on peer or teacher feedback
  • Student ownership: determining which pieces of feedback will lead to intended learning outcomes.

Timely, Actionable Feedback

Since feedback is meant to be acted upon, it is essential to give students enough time to read/listen to/watch teachers’ comments and enact the steps necessary to improve their work. Students need time to use the feedback in order to correct their work. For example, using catch-all phrases like “Good job!” or providing a summative grade/score will prevent students from taking actions based upon the feedback. Instead, research suggests being specific when providing feedback to students. Suggestions for specific and actionable comments are listed below:

  • I appreciate your choice in____________________ because_________________.
  • When you said/wrote “___________,” it strengthened your argument/thinking because____________.
  • This is a great start; however, by________in the future, your writing/speaking _______.
  • I noticed you_______and this would look/sound more polished if you were to ________because _________.
  • I really like what you did here, and I think you are on the right track. Might you consider adding/changing/omitting _____________?

The suggestions on this page are based on the research of John Hattie, Helen Timperley, Grant Wiggins, Ruth Butler, and Frank Pajares.