Next week we are moving into a session of learning rounds. Our focus will be on formative assessment - but what exactly is formative assessment?
If we want to aspire to be highly effective in our teaching, then the pupils that we teach should receive high-quality feedback and have an accurate understanding of their progress in learning and what they need to do to improve. They should also be able to give effective feedback to peers on their learning and suggest ways in which they can improve as well (HGIOS 4). We as teachers should also be using this progress and feedback to inform what and how we teach.
Our two most common types of assessment are formative assessment and summative assessment. I like the way University College Dublin put it in their learning and teaching toolkit, they say that Summative assessment is the type with which most people are familiar. It is usually conducted in the last few weeks of term to see how well students have learned what they were supposed to have learned. Formative assessment does not form part of the student’s final grade or mark. It is used to provide constructive feedback to improve learning and understanding. The product of formative assessment may never be quantifiably recorded on a grade sheet. The rationale is that students learn effectively by making and learning from mistakes which is difficult to do if their academic performance/final grade may be adversely affected. Since there are no marks at risk students can be more experimental, challenging preconceived ideas and developing more desirable higher cognitive skills.
"When the chef tastes the sauce it is formative assessment; when the customer tastes, it is summative" (Anon)
Anna is four and a half. True story. Last week was her first attempt at moving from a balance bike to learning how to ride a big bike with pedals. I didn't wait until we were packing everything up in the car and then give her a score of 75%. I talked with her throughout the learning experience, she knew what she was doing. I gave her the framework she needed for support. I held her helmet and the handle bars when she needed me to - but I knew when to let go so that she could be in charge, make her own mistakes and learn from them. I allowed her to ask the questions that she needed to in order to understand. There was no pass or fail.
Formative assessment is important. But it is also nothing new. So I went into the archives and acquired Dundee education departments 'Learning together in Dundee' folder - To see what I could learn from the days when HGIOS 4 wasn't even a twinkle in HGIOS 3's eye.