Formative Assessment Cycle

Eric Karnowski has worked at Education Development Center since 2000 on both curriculum development and professional development for mathematics and science teachers. For the past several years, he has been working with middle school mathematics teachers to help them learn about and implement formative assessment practices in their classrooms. He is co-author of an upcoming book on formative assessment, to be published by Corwin Press.

This is his first guest appearance on the Tech Matters Blog.

What makes for effective formative assessment in math?

Effective formative assessment in math goes beyond just asking a question or giving students a problem to solve. Rather, it’s a process that helps both the teacher and the student to target learning more effectively. The process includes frequent checks on how the student is making sense of the content to be learned, and it also requires clarifying what is to be learned and adjusting the instruction or the student’s efforts, as needed. With time, students should internalize the process so that they are more involved with their own learning.

There are four critical aspects of the formative assessment process: 

  1. Learning Intentions and Success Criteria

    For both teacher and students, the learning intention (also called learning targets) articulates where the learning activities are designed to lead students. The success criteria help students answer the question, “How will I know whether I’ve achieved the learning intention?"
  2. Eliciting and Interpreting Evidence

    By comparing the evidence to the success criteria, teachers and students can identify where the student is indeed being successful and where to place energy for even greater success. Gathering such evidence and then interpreting it to determine how to respond to the student’s needs, should occur frequently during instruction, in order to adjust instruction, as needed.
  3. Formative Feedback

    A significant action in response to the interpretation of evidence is providing feedback that will help the student move their current understanding or skills toward the learning intention. Such feedback should identify where the student is in relation to the learning goals—both where he or she is successful and where he or she still has work to do—and what the student can do next to progress further.
  4. Student Ownership and Involvement

    Embedded in this process is the student’s role, to take on the learning intention as a personal goal and proactively take part in monitoring and adjusting his or her own learning, so that everyone’s efforts are focused on what is important.

Different technologies can be used to support teachers and students in the formative assessment process. For example:

  • Polling apps and classroom response systems (e.g., iClicker), videos of students at work, and online notebooks can help teachers gather evidence.
  • Tablet apps can record students as they think aloud and write responses, useful as evidence.
  • Videos or online notebooks can provide students with examples and models of quality responses for feedback purposes.


What's New on POWERUP?

AIR Informs Episode #6: Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities During COVID-19

Remote learning requires adjustment for all students, but students with disabilities face additional challenges during the COVID-19 quarantine. In the latest episode of AIR Informs, Allison Gandhi, managing researcher and director of AIR’s special education practice area, describes some of these obstacles and shares strategies to help students make the most of this time.