Thanks to the many technological advancements in recent years, teachers have so many incredible opportunities to hone their craft, become more efficient, and provide the very best education possible to all of their students. From multimedia presentations to hands-on activities, gamification to interactive video lessons, there’s no shortage of fun ways for students to learn new information and develop new skills that are crucial in the modern world.
But assignments aren’t the only things that have evolved in the classroom over time.
Assessments look far different than they once did as well. And teachers can use the data collected from these assessments to inform their teaching in ways educators of the past never thought possible.
There are two main types of assessments completed in classrooms around the world: formative and summative. And while both formative and summative assessments play a vital role in a student’s education, recognition of the many benefits of using formative assessments regularly in the classroom environment continues to grow. In this post we’ll cover what formative assessment is, how it differs from summative assessment, and why formative assessment is important.
What is formative assessment
In essence, formative assessment is any type of assessment that takes place during the course of learning. In other words, formative assessments are given while students are still discovering new information and mastering new skills—not afterward.
Formative vs summative assessment
So, when it comes to understanding the difference between formative and summative assessment, educators must ask themselves when this assessment is taking place. If you’re collecting data on student learning during a regular classroom activity, then the assessment is formative. On the other hand, if you’re collecting data on student learning at the end of a chapter or unit, then the assessment is summative.
For example, a formative assessment might look like drawing a thinking map, taking a classroom poll or quick interactive video quiz, or filling out an exit ticket at the end of a typical day. In contrast, a summative assessment would include turning in a portfolio or taking a test or exam at the end of a unit of study before moving on to another.
The key things to remember about formative assessments—besides the timeframe in which they’re given—are as follows:
- They focus on specific learning targets.
- They’re designed to give timely feedback to you and your students.
- They should be used regularly, if not daily, in class.
- They identify both strengths and weaknesses.
- They’re used to determine which topics and skills need to be retaught before moving on.
- They can help you select the students who need small group instruction and those who would benefit from extension activities on their own.
- They have low to no point value assigned to them, so they’re very low stress.
Remember, formative assessments are given to students while they’re still in the process of learning in order to inform both you and your students in a timely manner. Therefore, you can easily incorporate formative assessments into your daily schedule without the students even knowing they’re being assessed.
Why formative assessment is important
The main reason formative assessment is important is that it provides data when you and your students need it most. Since the data is collected while they’re still actively learning—as opposed to being collected after learning has already taken place—it helps you determine if the class as a whole is on pace to reach their goals.
In essence, formative assessment data answers the following questions:
- Should we speed up the learning process so that everyone can demonstrate their knowledge and move on?
- Should we slow down the learning process so that everyone is given more time for mastery?
- Should we keep the pace the same but add some enrichment activities so that new learning is properly cemented?
With this crucial information, you’re able to pivot as needed, thereby improving your teaching style right at that moment. And students are given a better chance of finding academic success along the way.
Plus, formative assessments help students monitor their own progress, which increases their engagement level and leads to them taking ownership of their learning.
Top benefits of formative assessment
While there are many benefits of using formative assessment in the classroom regularly, a few top benefits stand out among the rest.
Formative assessments provide valuable information
The first top benefit of formative assessment is that it provides valuable information so that you can make more informed decisions. For example, when you regularly use formative assessments, you’ll know when to speed up or slow down the pace of a unit or look for times when reteaching needs to occur. You can also identify which students need more practice mastering specific skills and which students can be sent to work independently with enrichment activities. These are all pieces of critical information that formative assessments provide.
Formative assessments boost student achievement
The second top benefit of formative assessment is that it boosts student achievement. In classes where teachers use formative assessments daily, students expect them to happen, so they pay more attention in class and perform better on the assessments as a result. In addition, many students are competitive by nature. Even if there are no points attached to a formative assessment, and students aren’t told an activity is being used to assess their learning, they will want to provide the correct information every time.
Formative assessments provide evidence of student achievement
The third top benefit of formative assessment is that it provides evidence of student achievement. Formative assessments can supplement teacher evaluations, individual student conferences, and parent-teacher conferences, as well as justify when you give certain grades to students on their report cards. Formative assessments play just as important a role as summative assessments when you evaluate whether or not students have mastered key standards. And they’re a significant indicator of how well a student will do on a summative assessment before it is given.
Formative assessments give students purpose for learning
Lastly, formative assessments give students a purpose for their learning and a chance to show off their new skills. Students excel when they understand why they’re learning something, and they enjoy demonstrating their knowledge to you. So, offer a variety of formative assessments in your class to know exactly where your students are in the learning process.
Learn more about Screencast-O-Matic’s interactive video quizzing solution, available with all Solo Max Edu and Team Education plans. Video quizzes are a simple, fun, and engaging tool for formative assessments. Easily add quizzes, polls, and ratings to any video to create an interactive learning experience for your students.