Marsha Ratzel has a post on Education Week’s Teacher blog “Best Practice: Formative Assessment Done Right” that has many insightful comments on the current school-reform debate that standardized formative assessments should be part of the process.
For the last six years the Montana Arts Council has offered professional development workshops for teaching artists on using formative assessment. I think the consensus is that this approach to assessment of student learning makes a positive difference in the knowledge and skills students achieve in the arts.
Ms. Ratzel points out this approach needs to be classroom centered not something dictated from above.
“For me, formative assessment has become the most effective way to know which students are learning, which are stuck and where, and which students just aren’t getting it at all. It’s information I collect in any number of deliberate ways: listening to class discussions, glancing over a student’s shoulder as he or she complete an in-class assignment, asking three exit questions, posing three opening questions, collecting papers for review, and so on.
“The whole nature of formative assessment is small measurements—a pinpoint evaluation of a specific skill or process you are teaching right now, where you need feedback rather immediately so you can make the next decision. Wholesale data collection is much more suited to evaluating programs—not how far along specific kids are in mastering a specific learning target.
“Formative assessment done well can help amplify the effectiveness of a teacher. It creates a synergetic loop of information flowing from teacher to student and back to teacher—then back to the student again. Teachers who master the use of formative assessment and feedback will know they are making a difference, and students will understand what they must do to be successful.”
The whole post is well worth a read. It’s available here http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2011/03/02/tln_formative.html