Unit 4 - Formative Assessment in the Classroom

Activity 1 - The Importance of Formative Assessment

Watch this video which gives one teacher’s perspective on what formative assessment means to her teaching.

If your teaching is the same for all pupils, see if you can list 10 variables that could make the experience, and ultimately the degree of learning, different for different students.  We’ve started you off:

  1. Students’ prior knowledge and understanding of the concept being discussed.
  2. Students’ pace at which they learn.

Activity 2 - The Role of Formative Assessment

So in our teaching, we are going to use formative assessment strategies to help us as educators, learn about the way our teaching is being interpreted and acted upon by our students.  It will also help us uncover how success our students are being in achieving what the lesson plan set out for them to achieve.

Take your list from Activity 1 and see if you can complete this grid the first three columns of this table.  Again, we’ve started you off:

Now look over your table and give each variable a grading based on how much you think it impacts on the student’s success in the lesson overall. In other words, which are the variables that are going to affect their performance in the lesson the most if left unresolved.

Activity 3 – Strategies

Read AAIA’s publication Using assessment for enhancing learning – A practical guide

On Page 4, the following elements are listed as important components for formative assessment to be effective in the classroom.  For your own practice, think of a way you could ensure that these elements are in place for your teaching and for the learning in your classroom/school.  Download and print this PDF to help you with your thinking and planning in the next activity. 

Activity 4 – Lesson Planning

Step 1 – Identify a lesson that you will be teaching in the near future – one that is already planned or one that you have a really clear understanding of what you want the students to accomplish. Review your strategies from Activity 3 and highlight which ones can be incorporated into this lesson.

Step 2 – In the written lesson plan, write in prompts, questions and actions that will enable you to ensure your strategies can take place. Try not to include too many new strategies too soon. For each strategy and technique you’re planning on incorporating, think about what it may tell you about the students’ performance and understanding.

Share this plan with any other teaching and support staff that will be working with you for this lesson.

Step 3 – Teach the lesson!

Step 4 – Review the lesson and for the formative assessment techniques and strategies you included, evaluate their effectiveness – did they give you the information you were expecting? What can you conclude about the students’ learning? Use the following table to help you:

Activity 5 – Sharing and Learning

Share your thoughts for Activity 4 with a colleague. Use the following questions to guide your conversation:

  • What strategies are the same as ones you use?
  • How have I used them differently to you?
  • Can you think of any way I can improve my use of these strategies?
  • What formative assessment strategies do you use?
  • What do you think I could work on next?

After speaking to your senior leaders, set up a mini-lesson study activity with your colleague.

For this, both of you jointly plan a lesson that will be delivered by one of you to the appropriate class. While the subject and content of the lesson might be planned best by whoever has the more experience/knowledge in that area, both of you are required to plan the formative assessment strategies as follows:

Step 1 – Make sure the lesson has a very clear learning objective and associated success criteria.

Step 2 – Together, decide what success will look like for a learner in this lesson and how you will recognise it when you see it. Will it be through work produced? Through questioning? Through observations?

Step 3 – Together, plan the appropriate formative assessment strategies for the lesson that you believe will yield the information you need to identify the success from Step 2.

Step 4 – Write these strategies into the lesson plan.

Step 5 – For three children of differing attainment levels, try to predict how they will respond to the assessment strategies. How will they engage with the task? What do you think they will do? How successful do you think they will be? What do you hope you will discover about their learning?

Step 6 – Teach the lesson. Ideally the other person will sit in on the lesson and observe the three identified children and make notes on how they respond to the assessment activities.

Step 7 – Review the lesson with your colleague focusing in on:

  • how well the assessment activities achieved their purpose
  • what you learnt about the students’ learning
  • how accurate were your predictions from Step 5 were
  • how differently the three children performed and engaged with the tasks
  • what implications the observations have for future practice.


Unit 5

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