Formative Assessment

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Formative Assessment

Category : Articles

In this essay I aim to analyse and explain the different types of formative assessments and where I have used them in my own teaching practise.
Assessments are the core-measuring document that allows us as teachers to document learners??™ achievements, knowledge, skills and beliefs within education. There are various different forms of assessment.
Educational researcher Robert Stake (Spurling 2008) explains the difference between formative and summative assessment as:
???When the cook tastes the soup, that??™s formative. When the guests taste the soup that??™s summative.???
Summative assessments come in the form of end an end of unit or term exam to summarise what the student has achieved during the course of their learning. Qualifications such as GCSE and A level are very summative. Schools and further educational institutions are able to compare what level the individual has achieved in comparison to criteria based academic standards. This is otherwise known as criterion-referenced assessment (Gravell, 2008).
Formative assessment is when teachers through out the year do small learning checks in order to respond to learning. These small learning checks may be done in the form of an assessment, discussion, a piece of work or even a small activity that indicates what an individual may or may not comprehend. Formative assessments are said to allow learners to take education into their own hands allowing them to be student centred/focused as an formative assessment informs not only the teach but also the learner of their current academic level of understanding and achievement.
Petty (2008, pg. 449) describes formative assessment as ???The main use of assessment for teachers is the on going or formative assessment. This is used throughout the course to inform judgement on whether, and to what extent learning has been successful and to pinpoint difficulties so that remedial action can be taken???
Assessments inform teachers of the different adaptation that can also be made to specific resources or teaching technique to ensure individuals??™ needs are met dependant on an assessment and the learners individual needst. In order to make positive changes in teaching and learning, techniques such as teacher observation and classroom discussion have an important place alongside analysis of tests and homework.

Case study
Assessments are carried out very regularly through out the year in the supported learning department as learners needs tend to fluctuate due to conditions nature, deterioration or improvement of health. Formative assessments are carried out at the end of most sessions in the form of Small learning checks such as whole group or pair discussions, set homework, quizzes or small informal tests.
I have personally found questions and answers are a very informal yet affective way of carrying out small learning checks in a supported learning environment. Learners feel more relaxed and calm when asked randomised questions rather than an assessment in the form of an exam. Not always will an exam reflect a learners??™ real comprehension of a topic as a result of their nerves or even a communication barriers.
Teaching in supported learning can be very challenging at times as there are numerous groups of learners with various different conditions, behaviours, academic levels, religions and beliefs making every learner very individual.
At the end of every academic term learners will sit a summative assessment. This allows me to document at present what academic level the learners are working at. Once I have received the learners??™ grades I am able to plan for their academic development. Each learner will receive a new ???individual learning target??? that will be agreed amongst myself and the learners. The ILPs are set to allow learners to work towards a target or even next level.
Once I have carried out a formative assessment I analyse and compare learners previously achieved grades against their newly achieved grades setting a new ILP target to help improve the learners??™ grades furthermore. I feel it is very important and encouraging to feedback to learners their grades. It is important to feedback positive and even some negative points that came up in the assessment to allowing learners to self evaluate where they may have gone wrong or even to just discuss how they can achieve the correct outcome in the future.
Researchers have compared teaching in the USA with teaching in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. The Asian teachers were much more effective. The researchers concluded that a major reason for this was that the western teachers emphasised aptitude and ability while the Asian teachers put emphasis on effort and persistence. Another reason suggested was preparation time out of the classroom.
(Scientific American, December 1992)
In some cases a formative assessment can be very helpful as it highlights conditions such as dyslexia. In the past I have liaised with the learner support team to receive additional help for some of my learners on a 1:1 basis for learners dealing dyslexia.
By setting formative assessments learners are constantly developing and improving their literacy, language and ICT skills. During sessions I try to ensure the computers are used to an advantage informing the learners where in the future they will be able to transfer their ICT skills into employment , pleasure or even further education course.
One particular learner I teach has a very low literacy level of understanding. By providing specialist aids and reading software on the computer the learner is given the opportunity to achieve his full potential in assessments whilst improve his English.
Evaluation
This year has been my first year of part time teaching. I feel I am learning something new everyday . At the beginning of the year I used to use a lot of formal, summative assessments as I had not quite yet grasped the idea of using formative learning checks. I feel that by using small, regular formative assessments along side summative assessments at the end of a term or unit my learners will benefit as they will receive a regular update on their education and development .Summative assessments are not as regular as formative assessments as they are generally set at the end of a topic, term or unit to check learners full comprehension on that topic or unit.

To improve my use of formative assessment in the future I aim try to work out what works best with my learners earlier on in the year as all classes are very much different. Just because one strategy of formative assessment works tremendously well in one class this does not mean it is going to work the same way in another. I aim to extend my knowledge and understanding of the different types of assessments and the groups they were aimed at being using with.

Bibliography
Gravells, A. (2008) Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector. Exeter: Learning matters Ltd.
Petty, G (2004) A practical guide: Teaching today. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd
Spurling, J. (2008) Designing better engineering education through assessment. Virginia: Stylus publishing LLC.
Magazine
Scientific America (p.g. 34-41. 1992)