Part 2: What's Missing in Formative Assessment?

A North Carolina professor is working hard to create a shared definition of formative assessment that is widely embraced by stakeholders and decision-makers in the world of education. Gregory J. Cizek, professor of Educational Measurement and Evaluation at UNC-Chapel Hill, states, “Formative assessment is part of a planned assessment system that supports teachers’ and students’ inferences about learning and conceptual organization, strengths, and diagnosis of weaknesses and areas for improvement. It is a source of information that educators can use in instructional planning and students can use to deepen their understandings, improving their achievement, taking responsibility for, and self-regulating their learning. Formative assessment includes both general principles, and discipline-specific elements that comprise the formal and informal materials, collaborative processes, ways of knowing, and habits of mind particular to a content domain” (Cizek, Andrade, & Bennett, 2019).

Undoubtedly, there are many educators who are proficient in one or more aspects of Cizek’s definition of formative assessment. Nevertheless, without a universal definition, teachers who can pull all of those pieces together to create a more complete, working assessment process are few and far between - not to mention the extra time it takes to maintain such a process manually. Most teachers can agree that formative assessments are used to find out what students know, how they learn, and how instruction should be modified to best fit the needs of their students. Where the agreement ends is how to go about doing this. With “formative assessment activities” or fast ways to “do formative assessment” easily found on any internet search, educators have hundreds of resources at their fingertips. However, these resources tend to only address one or two aspects of what formative assessment should be, and fail to address the big picture.

As stated in our previous post, A Look into Formative Assessment, the key element often missing from formative assessment is the student component. Tools need to support student ownership of learning. Programs and products are not the ends of formative assessment. Rather, they are vehicles for students to move towards greater self-regulated learning. P.R. Pintrich states that there are four phases of self-regulated learning: 

  • Forethought, planning, and activation 
  • Monitoring
  • Control
  • Reaction and reflection 

For each phase, there are also four areas for regulation: 

  • Cognition
  • Motivation/affect
  • Behavior
  • Context 

Considering these phases and areas while creating instructional and assessment tools will encourage students to become more self-aware and responsible for their learning while generating a more complete formative assessment system that supports both teacher and student. 

There are multiple ways to accomplish these goals and close the gaps in true formative assessments to maximize benefits for both teachers and students. The problem is that there are no complete resources that engage students in this kind of self-regulated learning. By taking informative tools that allow teachers to make inferences and draw conclusions on teaching and learning, and adding in solutions that bridge the student components, we can create true formative assessments that provide teachers and students with true value. 

But how can you, as educators, have any input or impact on the tools that you are using? At MI, we value feedback and invite you to join the conversation so you can play a crucial role in helping us shape the future of formative assessment with MI Compass. Our vision for MI Compass is to become the complete formative assessment tool for classrooms everywhere. Built by educators like you to empower teachers to effectively evaluate learning and enable students to take ownership of their education.

Come back next week to read more about what to look for in formative assessment tools in Part 3 of our Navigating Formative Assessment series. If you would like to be a part of our team - find out more here!

In case you missed the first part of our Formative Assessment series, check it out here.

Cizek, G. (2019). Formative Assessment in the Disciplines: Advances in Theory and Practice [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from…