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Formative Assessment

 At its essence, true formative assessment is assessment that is informing—to teachers, students, and families.

NCTE's Statement on Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction (NCTE position statement)

Interview with members of the NCTE Task Force that wrote the statement:  Part 1 and Part 2  


Effective teachers are constantly engaged in the process of formative assessment:
  • offering one more bit of explanation from the front of the room when students’ heads tilt and brows furrow,
  • asking a student to re-read a paragraph (this time aloud, maybe) when he shrugs at a question in a conference,
  • handing a student her soon-to-be new favorite book based on the dozens of conversations about the kinds of stories she likes and doesn’t over the course of the year.

These acts of decision making, informed by student response to purposeful or intuitive prompts, are the threads out of which skill, knowledge, and understanding are woven collaboratively by teachers and students.

Formative assessment can look more structured, too, with

  • teachers beginning a class period with a discussion of a short list of general misunderstandings garnered from a recent quiz,
  • grouping students with varied activities based on the writing they did the class period before,or
  • pairing students to read each other’s drafts with a prepared list of questions and prompts.
In whatever shape it takes, formative assessment is the lived, daily embodiment of a teacher’s desire to refine practice based on a keener understanding of current levels of student performance, undergirded by the teacher’s knowledge of possible paths of student development within the discipline and of pedagogies that support such development.



Understanding the Importance of Formative Assessment

In this video, Cathy Fleischer talks about the importance of formative assessments rooted in instruction. She also calls out the trend of mini summative assessment practices being marketed as formative assessment tools.






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NCTE - The National Council of Teachers Of English

A Professional Association of Educators in English Studies, Literacy, and Language Arts