Up until this year I have struggled with formative assessment. I get the idea behind it. I know that it's designed to inform both the student and teacher of where students are in their learning. As a teacher I can then adjust my teaching based on what students do and do not understand and hopefully students can focus on what they don't understand.
In theory it all sounds good but I felt that there was always a huge hurdle to overcome. How could I get students to take formative assessments seriously if it wasn't going to count? We've all heard it before: "Does this count for marks?". To me this question translates into "How much effort do I need to put into this?". I didn't see much point in using valuable class time on an assessment if students we're willing to give it their best shot.
This year I have decided to change my perspective on formative assessment. I realized that formative assessment isn't for me at all. I know how students are doing on certain topics based on my observation and their conversations. I don't need a mark to justify this. The purpose of formative assessment is not to give me feedback, it's to give my students feedback about how they're doing. It should provide them with the tools they need to take the next steps in planning their learning. Following the assessment a student should be able to say "This is what I need to do in order to be successful".
A couple of weeks ago I decided to give my students a formative quiz. I let them know that the quiz didn't count for anything. I also let them know that the purpose of the quiz wasn't to inform my practice, it was to let them know how they were doing. The big difference this time is that I informed my students that there would be no marks on their quizzes. I decided that marks were a distraction from the learning. The purpose of formative assessment had to shift from grades to learning. Instead I provided only feedback. I circled things, underlined stuff, drew arrows and asked questions to help guide their thinking.
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