Common formative assessments can drastically increase student learning, but they aren’t simply a test you give at the end of a unit. We all know this, but the practices vary between settings with varying results too. Common formative assessment is a smart assessment practice if you use it with the big picture benefits in mind. Let’s take a closer look.
Smart assessment practices don’t always match with mandated testing practices. Many have written on the dangers of standardized testing, but what about the incredible promises of common formative assessment?
Do you give common assessments? How about formative assessments? How are those practices different from common formative assessments, and does it even really matter?
Yes and yes and yes.
In this post, we will share some tips and best practices for using common formative assessment. Let’s start with this cool graphic from Solution Tree.
What is Common Formative Assessment?
Common formative assessments are unique because they are focused on a single unit of study, essential learning standards, and provide teams of teachers with a tool for measuring student growth throughout the unit. More importantly, they allow teachers and students to make adjustments to ensure all students learn at high levels.
- Focused on Essential Learning Standards
- Measures Growth
- Teachers Use the Data to Make Adjustments
What are the Benefits of Common Formative Assessment?
- Team-developed common formative assessments are more efficient because they allow teachers to divide the workload and responsibility for designing assessments.
- Common formative assessments are built to ensure all students have access to the same curriculum – they guarantee the same focus for learning.
- Data does not inform practice. It’s how teachers use data that is common to all students that can provoke new practices.
- Common formative assessments provide a data basis to provide team-level interventions when students don’t learn and extension/acceleration for students who demonstrate mastery.
- Common formative assessments are standardized assessments without high stakes and without replacing the daily formative assessment individual teachers use in classroom lessons.
Expert Advice for Common Formative Assessments
Chris Jakicic has written and worked extensively in the area of common formative assessments and offers this advice:
“Common formative assessments are team-designed, intentional measures used for the purpose of monitoring student attainment of essential learning targets throughout the instructional process. In addition to providing information about which students need additional support or extension, common formative assessments allow teams to examine the effects of their practice and gain insight as to which instructional strategies yield high levels of learning. Furthermore, the data can be used to provide frequent feedback to students that they can use to adjust their own learning strategies.”
In John Hattie’s incredible research synthesis on Visible Learning, he described common formative assessment as:
“Common formative assessments are designed to give students specific feedback on the clear target to be achieved, along with suggestions on how to reach that target on subsequent assessments. Students need to understand that this feedback will not be graded but that it will be used by their teachers to design specific instruction to help them improve.”'Creating common formative assessments is a critical part of the PLC process. But how is that different from creating regular formative assessments?' — Solution Tree (@SolutionTree) March 28, 2018Click To Tweet
Pitfalls to Avoid with Common Formative Assessment
- We Already Do Weekly Tests
- This Takes Too Much Time
- I Need Grades, That’s What Assessment Is For
- What Do I Do With More Data
What strategies do you use for common assessment? Are you familiar with common formative assessment, and how does your team use it to measure student growth?