Of or For?

Popham VideoFor much of the summer and early fall, we have been focused on development of student learning objectives (SLO) and related summative assessments.  We had teams collaborating across the region to create over 71 different assessments. Teachers entered the task thoughtfully and strived to capture the priority learning from content and CCLS standards. Learning standards were examined for common understanding on what students need to know and do. Once articulated, learning targets could be identified with corresponding assessment items. Now that summative assessments are identified, we need to attend to what types, intervals and formats our interim assessments take. These assessments look at how students are progressing towards the end goal. What are the learning targets along the way? And how do we share them with students? Expressing such targets in “I can” language personalizes and assists us to put the learning targets into student friendly language- that is appropriate for the age of the student. So for example:  I can identify key ideas and information within a text or I can recognize cause and effect relationships.

Once we have identified the learning target it is time to really delve into formative assessment. The simplest way in my mind to differ between the summative and formative assessment is that formative assessment is FOR learning. Summative assessment is OF learning. Both answer questions- just different questions! Summative addresses- was instruction effective? Formative answers what might need to be done next to foster student learning? It is important to know that an assessment may be designed as formative but if the results are not used to inform and guide instructional decisions, that assessment is in fact a summative assessment. James Popham provides an overview for us.

One of the most striking components of assessment research is the magnitude of effect that formative assessment can have on student learning. Check out the research of Black and Wiliam, or Stiggins. What might formative assessment look like? Most teachers are using formative assessment on a daily basis – strategies like response boards, ticket out the door, journaling, graphic organizers, mind maps, summaries, and 321 are all commonly used. A review of formative assessment and selected strategies can be found in Just Ask October 2012 Newsletter.


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