A Case For Formative Assessment Essay

2337 words - 9 pages


Innovations that include strengthening the practice of formative assessment produce significant and often substantial learning gains.
-Black and William, 1998b, p. 140

This conclusion from influential review of research by Black and Wiliam (1998a, 1998b) on formative assessment has changed the face of assessment in current education system. This comprehensive review emphasises the potential of assessment in raising standards i.e. assessment for learning (AfL). During research, it was found that pupils gain achievement when teachers rely on formative assessment/s. Another outcome from their study claims that certain formative assessment practices greatly increased the achievement of low-performing pupils.
Summative assessment can be defined as summary assessments of individual pupil performance including tests, examinations and end-of-year marks. It can be used for promotion, certification or admission to higher levels of education. In contrast, formative assessment draws on information gathered in assessment process to identify learning needs and hence adjusting teaching accordingly. Summative assessment is also referred as assessment of learning whereas formative assessment, as assessment for learning.
The reason for raised importance of assessment derives from the increasing realisation of the value of continuous assessment in informing teaching and improving learning. In this essay, a brief description of the main features, principles and strategies that underpin the concept of both types of assessment has been discussed. Findings about their impact and effect on teaching and learning are presented. In the earlier section of this paper, rationale of assessment of learning and assessment for learning is clarified . In addition, some criticism has been identified and guidelines have been developed for practice on assessment; creating learning ethos within classroom derived from research and based on my school experience on promoting effective learning.
Use of formative assessment / AfL:
Many recent developments in formative assessment have been contributed by Assessment Reform Group (ARG) which defines AfL as:
‘Assessment for learning is any assessment for which the first priority in its design and practice is to serve the purpose of promoting pupils’ learning. It thus differs from assessment designed primarily to serve the purposes of accountability, or of ranking, or of certifying competence.’
-ARG, 2002

Using important strategies for AfL, and the formative use of summative tests can be overwhelmingly positive in terms of potential to promote improvements in teaching and learning. AfL can detract from effective learning and prevent feedback assessment decisions to learners on their performance with view to improving their work. ARG commissioned research to Black and Wiliam (1998a, 1998b) to study the impact of different approached and techniques on student learning. Their study included effective...

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