Category Archives: Formative Assessment

The Doctor is in: Time for an Academic Physical with Dr. Nikki Roorda

Roorda_Nicole (1)Every day, in millions of doctors’ offices across the world, people go in for their annual physical exam.  This process brings out a multitude of emotions from patients including, but not limited to, “I hate going to the doctor.  I know s/he is going to tell me to lose a few pounds and to stop eating out so much” to “I am excited to see how my changes in lifestyle choices have impacted my high blood pressure,” and everything in between. 

The purpose  of health screenings is defined by the American Medical Association (AMA)  as, “Health care services or products provided to an individual without apparent signs or symptoms of an illness, injury or disease for the purpose of identifying or excluding an undiagnosed illness, disease, or condition” (2000).  The  AMA contends that through the use of screening, our doctors can determine if a medical emergency exists.  No matter what thoughts go through our minds when we go in for our annual physicals, at the end of the day we trust in the process of the health screen to keep us safe from underlying medical issues. Continue reading


ATI Annual Grading Conference Expands Focus


We were riding high after a great ATI Summer Conference, but it was soon time to get back to work. For over a decade, ATI has offered its popular December Grading Conference and plans are well underway to repeat the eva49a9159ent again this year. Our presenters and authors were brimming with ideas, and Rick Stiggins was no exception.

As standards-based, or proficiency-based grading gains traction, Rick urged us to stay ahead of the field by expanding our subject matter to address other practices that contribute to better student outcomes by improving feedback from teachers.

This year, grading practices will be just one of several topics related to communication about student achievement address in the conference sessions. Conference participants will have the opportunity to study the basic principles of effective communication about student learning in any school context. Continue reading

Assessment Strategies Proven to Work

Ben ArcuriBy Ben Arcuri

There is no bigger topic in education these days than the topic of assessment. Assessment has many definitions depending on who is doing the talking. The purpose of assessments and the intended users of  assessment information differ tremendously as well. Assessment can serve as a guide to the students; it has the ability to guide the teacher and can also drive education policy and reform. Continue reading

Assessment FOR Learning: What Does It Look Like in Teacher Terms?

In this post from the ATI archives, Rick StSchoolchildren Studying In Classroom With Teacheriggins paints a picture of what assessment for learning looks like in the classroom.

When using assessment FOR learning in a proper manner, teachers use the classroom assessment process and the continuous flow of information about student achievement that it provides to advance, not merely check on, student progress. The basic principles of assessment for learning are captured in the following checklist. Teachers who can say that these practices are part of their normal routine are applying the principles of assessment FOR learning:

  • I can articulate the achievement targets that my students are to hit before I begin instruction.
  • I regularly inform my students about those learning goals in terms that they understand.
  • I am routinely transform my achievement expectations into assessment exercises and scoring procedures that I am certain accurately reflect student achievement.
  • I understand how to use classroom assessment to build student confidence in themselves as learners.
  • The feedback that my students receive is frequent and descriptive, giving them information upon which to improve their performance.
  • My students regularly assess their own achievement and feel comfortable managing their own improvement over time.
  • I continuously adjust instruction based on the results of classroom assessments.
  • My students are actively involved in communicating with others about their achievement status and improvement.
  • My students are able to predict with some accuracy what comes next in their learning.

In short, the effect of assessment FOR learning, as it plays out in the classroom, is that students remain confident that they can continue to learn at productive levels if they keep trying to learn. In other words, they don’t give up in frustration or hopelessness.

Tips for Better Student-Developed Rubrics

Are you planning to have your students create their own rubrics this year? Here are some tips on how to guide this process from Judy Arter & Jan Chappuis’ Creating & Recognizing Quality Rubrics.

While we’re all in favor of involving students in rubric development, it is not true that anything gos when we do. We have to be ready to lead students to germane criteria. We have to have a clear picture in our own minds of where we want to take students so that we can engage them in activities and show them models that lead them to justified inferences about quality. Teachers generally know more about quality than do students. Even though students always have knowledge to build on, they also can harbor misunderstandings. Our rubrics send a message to students about what is important. Therefore, the rubrics they create have to cover the features that really do define a quality performance or product.

We once saw a rubric developed by third graders to evaluate reading comprehension by producing a poster of the story. Students focused on the quality considerations for an attractive poster—three colors, at least five pictures, neat, readable from a distance, and so on—instead of the quality of the comprehension displayed by the poster.

A solution? How about leading these students to deliberately evaluate two different criteria: comprehension of the story as revealed by the poster and the attractiveness of the poster itself. For the former, have them think about what would indicate that a student has understood the story. For the latter, let them know that it is always important to present work in an engaging manner. Here their criteria for a quality poster might prove sufficient.

Then, if we put two scores in the record book—comprehension and presentation—it would be clear what each score is evidence of. The presentation score would be used in figuring an art grade, not a reading grade, because the rubric for presentation represents art-related learning targets.

Excerpt from Arter, J. & Chappius, J. (2006). Creating & recognizing quality rubrics. p. 61. Reprinted by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.

Instructional Agility 

tom schimmer7x5By Tom Schimmer

For an assessment to serve a truly formative purpose, it needs to cause some action by the teacher and students. In other words, the information gleaned must have the potential to illicit an instructional change or adjustment going forward. The word potential is important here because the resulting assessment information will not always lead to instructional changes since the assessments may confirm that what the teacher has planned for the next fifteen minutes is the most favorable direction to take. The point is that the teacher be in a position to consider those changes in real-time; that a teacher have the instructional agility to make the necessary maneuvers in as short a time as possible.

Formative assessment is a verb. When we view formative assessment as a noun we create two challenges. First, the assessment-as-noun mindset is one that views assessments as a series of events. This event focus creates the illusion that every time teachers assess their students they must create something tangible to hand out. Second, an event-based view of assessment infers that a teacher must “stop teaching” in order to “conduct” their formative assessments. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach in small, periodic doses, those who view assessments as nouns will find the prospect of day-by-day, minute-by-minute formative assessment daunting as they ponder the number artifacts they must create and collect. It’s no wonder some teachers proclaim that they “don’t have time for formative assessment.” Continue reading

Planning for Learning


By Jan Chappuis

The preservice education my teaching colleagues and I experienced focused primarily on the act of instructing—different ways to deliver information—with no attention to responding to student work. Consequently, I, like many others, began teaching with a repertoire of four steps: plan, instruct, assign, and grade. First I planned what I would do and what my students would do. Then, I prepared the materials and resources. Next, I did what I planned, and they did what I planned. Last, I graded what they did. However, learning and teaching turned out to be far messier than I had been prepared for. Somewhere between “I taught it” and “they learned it,” the straight shot downstream to achievement sprung surprisingly into an array of diverging tributaries. Over the course of that first year, I discovered there are a thousand ways for learners to “not get” a lesson.

The belief underpinning my teacher preparation seemed to be that learning trots right along after good instruction, a sort of stimulus-response system, in which instruction alone will create learning. However, when students have continued learning needs after instruction, it is not necessarily an indication that something went wrong. Learning is an unpredictable process; instructional correctives are part of the normal flow of attaining mastery in any field. Continue reading