April 24, 2023

Formative Assessment – Time for a revisit?

Maybe it is time we reconsidered Formative Assessment and have a look at it with fresh eyes using the knowledge that is now part of day-to-day practice in Education.

The term formative assessment has been around for some time now. Many will know and remember the semi-circle model of assessment for learning (AfL) and I am sure so many think that we’ve “seen it, done that” in terms of formative assessment over the years and have it clearly embedded in their practice and in their schools. But do we actually? And how many of us know practitioners who do it well? And know what ‘Good’ really looks like?

Reconsider alongside Rosenshine and others

Since the introduction of formative assessment, practitioners are now far more aware of educational research and concepts such as Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction; Cognitive Load Theory, Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve and the principles behind Retrieval Practice, which Kate Jones has been influential in bringing to many classrooms. So maybe it is time we reconsidered Formative Assessment and have a look at it with fresh eyes using the knowledge that is now part of day-to-day practice in Education.

Dylan Wiliam’s Five Formative Assessment Strategies

In many of Wiliams’ publications he references the 5 key strategies that support the implementation of effective formative assessment. They are as follows:

Those who are aware of Rosenshine’s principles will see some overlap in the ideas. In particular, presenting new material using small steps, providing models, guiding student practice, checking for student understanding, providing scaffolds for difficult tasks and independent practice. And with retrieval practice we consider children’s memory and how the low stakes practice of retrieval exercises support children to remember more.

These principles dovetail so well with Wiliams’ strategies. Coupled with the current emphasis with curriculum in which schools focus on the precise knowledge, skills and vocabulary to ensure that children know and remember more, Wiliam’s 5 key strategies perhaps need re-examining in greater detail and VNETs session on 3rd May will do precisely that.

Assessment is the bridge between Teaching and Learning…. Only through assessment can you know what has been taught has been learnt.

Ruth McGlone

Principal Consultant
April 2023

Resources and Images from:
Dylan Wiliam: Embedded Formative Assessment 2011
Barak Rosenshine: Principles of Instruction 2010
Kate Jones: Retrieval Practice 2019
Dylan Wiliam: Formative Assessment 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYdVe5O7KBE

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