The importance of Formative Assessment

Formative assessment refers to the engagement by students and teachers with

  1. Learning goals
  2. Current progress in relation to learning goals
  3. Action taken to work toward the achievement of learning goals

ASCD, 2010

Assessment is an important part of the teaching and learning process that can enhance students engagement within a unit and motivate them to explore further (Board of Studies NSW, 2012).  Formative Assessment provides opportunities for teachers to monitor student learning as it happens.  Are students keeping pace with the instruction and are they understanding the material presented?  These tasks are designed to provide feedback for future learning and allow changes to be made to the design or structure of the unit to meet the learning needs of students (Marsh, 2004).  This is an opportunity for teachers to reflect on how they are teaching material and introduce supplementary material to support or extend student learning.  

It is important to remember that formative assessment is not used for grading, but rather as a tool to grow learning and for any assessment item, formative or not, it is essential to identify the outcomes that are to be judged.  As we make judgments about what does and does not demonstrate student understanding we start to develop some sort of criteria and it is important that we communicate these criteria to students.  This usually takes the form of a rubric that provides students with clear direction about what they need to demonstrate (Wolf and Stevens, 2007). 

With clear expectations outlined, adequate access to resources and an understanding and awareness of what outcomes are being assessed, formative assessment is a great tool in determining a students zone of proximal development (Vygotsky cited in Churchill et al., 2013).  This means teachers can really take a student centered approach that enhances the learning achieved by students in their classroom.



ASCD (2010). Formative Assessment Strategies for Every Classroom: An ASCD Action Tool , 2nd Edition. Retrieved from¢.aspx

Board of Studies, NSW. (2012). Advice on Assessment. Retrieved from

Churchill, R., Ferguson, P., Godinho, S., Johnson, N., Keddie, A., Letts, W. et al. (2013). Teaching: Making a difference (2nd ed.). Milton, QLD: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.

Wolf, K., & Stevens, E. (2007). The Role of Rubrics in Advancing and Assessing Student Learning. The Journal of Effective Teaching, 7(1), 3-14. Retrieved from 


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