Formative Assessment - Challenge Map
Challenge Map


Formative Assessment

The Challenge

At the classroom level, many teachers are working to implement assessments to gauge student learning in real-time, and to help students set and monitor their own learning goals using data. Some aspire to embed assessment into everyday learning, through student-driven projects and performance tasks, and use instruments like rubrics to measure learning and development of skills beyond academic content knowledge; others are seeking ways to use portfolios to collect ongoing evidence of student learning. Data collected in the course of using digital learning products can provide valuable insights, especially when combined with other data sets, however these tools are in various stages of development and implementation. Formative assessment can help educators make evidence-based decisions to improve student learning, but they need support to implement formative assessment broadly.

In the Words of District Leaders

One of my big flags I like to wave is formative assessment.... The teachers can understand while teaching the lesson what the kids know and don't know. We've got lots of tools now where students can log in without being embarrassed to ask questions, and we have assessments you can give at the end of class to know right then: did the kids learn what we went over today? I don’t think we're leveraging that to the extent that I had hoped.

“We’re focused on one problem of practice– this idea of formative assessment…It really is around: can we identify the learning intentions in the classroom, and are we able to elicit evidence that those learning intentions are being understood? …It’s around learning intentions and success criteria that are observable in the classroom. Again, because we’re using this new language when it comes to this idea of learning intentions, we felt like it’s a problem of practice across the district that’s going to require us to all learn together what that looks like.”

Ideas from the Field

  • Though formative assessment is not a new idea, districts continue to implement new types of formative assessment aligned with changing accountability standards, district goals, or new curricula. One district using a validated formative assessment for reading four times a year, which gives teachers a real-time indication of student progress, mastery, and areas for growth. Teachers are able to provide the necessary intervention for those particular areas where students are struggling, and to provide an accelerated approach for students who are speedily mastering content.
  • Others are using apps and tools for math, science, and reading to provide students with immediate feedback on their gaps and opportunities for improvement. Handing ownership of data over to students increases their engagement with their learning and progress.


Check out the following research-based resources for more information about formative assessment:

Revising the Definition of Formative Assessment – From CCSSO, this resource provides an overview of the attributes of effective formative assessment and emphasizes new areas emerging from current research, theory and practice.

Connecting Formative Assessment Research to Practice: An Introductory Guide for Educators – This Learning Point brief defines formative assessment, examines the research, and outlines the components needed to develop a high-quality, research-based formative assessment plan in a state, district, or school.

Raising the BAR: Becoming Assessment Ready Toolkit  – From CoSN, an online assessment report and planning tool to help districts make a successful online transition.

Real Time Data Use/Assessment – This topic page of The Learning Accelerator’s Blended & Personalized Learning at Work website offers 20 specific strategies for creating systems and routines to continuously monitor progress to tailor learning activities.

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