Developing the theory of formative assessment

Abstract

Whilst many definitions of formative assessment have been offered, there is no clear rationale to define and delimit it within broader theories of pedagogy. This paper aims to offer such a rationale, within a framework which can also unify the diverse set of practices which have been described as formative. The analysis is used to relate formative assessment both to other pedagogic initiatives, notably cognitive acceleration and dynamic assessment, and to some of the existing literature on models of self-regulated learning and on classroom discourse. This framework should indicate potentially fruitful lines for further enquiry, whilst at the same time opening up new ways of helping teachers to implement formative practices more effectively.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The importance of “success criteria” and “learning intentions” was emphasised by Clarke (2001).

  2. 2.

    For those who believe that this merely moves the burden of definition onto the word “learning” we would define learning as an increase, brought about by experience, in the capacities of an organism to react in valued ways in response to stimuli.

  3. 3.

    Boekearts and Corno use two terms, growth and mastery, with both, apparently interchangeable, to stand for a focus on learning achievement; we have preferred the first of these here because mastery denotes a sense of completion whereas growth does not.

  4. 4.

    Examples of such questions in mathematics may be found in Hodgen and Wiliam (2006) and Swann (2006).

  5. 5.

    neriage’ originally applied to the technique of layering, cutting and re-combining different colours of clay to produce a block with intricate patterns.

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Black, P., Wiliam, D. Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educ Asse Eval Acc 21, 5 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11092-008-9068-5

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Keywords

  • Formative assessment
  • Assessment for learning
  • Dynamic assessment
  • Self-regulation
  • Instruction
  • Pedagogy
  • Cognitive acceleration
  • Dialogue