31 Formative Assessments

Formative assessment, in our opinion, is the most important kind of assessment. Formative assessments are the regular, in-class and outside-of-class tasks that students receive throughout the term that provide information to instructors and students that shows their progress, their strengths and the areas where they have improved. We consider formative assessment the assessment approach that best supports learning.

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We recommend that you offer choice and variety in your choice of assessments to best support the diversity of your learners. In most cases, frequent, low-stakes (or no-stakes) formative assessments will provide students with opportunities to test their knowledge and skills with a lower risk of failure.

Formative Assessment Strategies

Here are some strategies to help you design formative assessments that best support student learning:

  • Make the activities authentic and linked to real-world experiences
  • Engage students in the process of identifying questions for tests or criteria for rubrics
  • Engage in community-based learning
  • Encourage students to predict how they did on an assessment before providing them with their actual results
  • Provide a diagnosis of the “reasons” a student may not have performed well on a particular assessment and offer strategies the student can use to improve their performance on future assessments


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