Education ON Formative Assessment ON Formative


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ESSENTIALS
ON
Formative Assessment
Readings from 
Educational Leadership
Edited by
Marge Scherer
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ESSENTIALS
ON
Formative Assessment
Introduction: Seeing into the Minds of Students by Marge Scherer . . . . . . . . . . . . .1
1. How Classroom Assessments Improve Learning by Thomas R. Guskey. . . . .3 The assessments most likely to improve learning are those that teachers create.
2. The Bridge Between Today’s Lesson and Tomorrow’s by Carol Ann Tomlinson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Ten principles for using formative assessments wisely.
3. Seven Keys to Effective Feedback by Grant Wiggins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24 What feedback is—and isn’t.
4. Know Thy Impact by John Hattie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36 The effects of feedback, although positive overall, are remarkably variable.
5. Feedback That Fits by Susan M. Brookhart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46 How to make sure your students hear your feedback.
6. How Am I Doing? by Jan Chappuis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 By looking closely at students’ work, we can identify where they need help.
7. The Perils and Promises of Praise by Carol S. Dweck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .66 The wrong kind of praise creates self-defeating behavior. The right kind motivates students to learn.
8. Formative Assessment in Seven Good Moves by Brent Duckor . . . . . . . . . .76 From priming students to probing their responses—these practices make a difference in student outcomes.
9. Feed Up, Back, Forward by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. . . . . . . . . . . . . .87 Everyone talks about feedback but feeding forward is important, too. ADVANCE UNCORRECTED COPY—NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION

vi On Formative Assessment 10. The Right Questions, The Right Way by Dylan Wiliam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97 “No hands up” and other ideas to help you elicit evidence of students’ learning. 11. The New Teacher’s Guide to Better Assessment by Mary Jo Grdina . . . . .105 These basic steps can help teachers avoid common pitfalls. 12. How I Broke My Rule and Learned to Give Retests by Myron Dueck . . . . .113 Structured choices for retesting can motivate even the lowest achievers. Study Guide by Naomi Thiers and Teresa Preston. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .122 Ideas to try out individually or in a study group. EL Takeaways: On Formative Assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .127
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Introduction
Seeing into the Minds of Students
In a way, editors are in the assessment game, scrutinizing authors’ work with an eye to selecting the best manuscripts and improving on them, if possible. Sometimes writers tell us that we “read their minds” because we helped them polish their final manuscript. But an editor’s kind of assessment is a far cry from the way teachers examine students’ work.
Teachers have something else in mind when they use what they call “formative assessment.” Their primary aim is to read students, not articles. They assess their students’ work to learn what their students know and can do, with the main purpose being to help students to learn on their own.
The practice of assessment has always been part of a teacher’s repertoire, but formative assessment has come into its own in the past decade. That’s one of the reasons we gathered this assortment of essential articles on formative assessment and feedback, which pulls together some of the best—and most clicked on—articles on these topics that Educational Leadership has published.
The articles provide insights into the purpose of formative assessment (Guskey; Tomlinson); the principles to follow for giving the most effective feedback (Wiggins; Hattie; Brookhart; Dweck); and multiple strategies for using effective formative assessment in daily lessons (Wiliam, Duckor, Chappuis, Fisher and Frey, Dueck, and Grdina).
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2 On Formative Assessment These authors tell fellow educators about how to use formative
assessment to shape the next phase of instruction and how to look for patterns in students’ assessments and assignments—the mistakes students frequently make, the signals that tell what individuals need, what groups of kids need, what the whole class needs. And they present excellent advice about how to make your feedback more apt to be heard and acted upon by your students.
Whether you are a new or experienced teacher, a school leader, a teacher educator, or a member of a professional learning community, we hope this collection of articles will help you reflect on ways to use assessment to more powerfully boost learning. And be sure to look for new articles in Educational Leadership each month as we present the best thinkers in education about topics of most interest to educators. If you have time, we welcome your feedback, too!
—Marge Scherer Editor in Chief, Educational Leadership
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3
Seven Keys to Effective Feedback
Grant Wiggins
Advice, evaluation, grades—none of these provide the descriptive information that students need to reach their goals. What is true feedback—and how can it improve learning?
Who would dispute the idea that feedback is a good thing? Both common sense and research make it clear: Formative assessment, consisting of lots of feedback and opportunities to use that feedback, enhances performance and achievement.
Yet even John Hattie (2008), whose decades of research revealed that feedback was among the most powerful influences on achievement, acknowledges that he has “struggled to understand the concept” (p. 173). And many writings on the subject don’t even attempt to define the term. To improve formative assessment practices among both teachers and assessment designers, we need to look more closely at just what feedback is—and isn’t.
What Is Feedback, Anyway?
The term feedback is often used to describe all kinds of comments made after the fact, including advice, praise, and evaluation. But none of these are feedback, strictly speaking.
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Seven Keys to Effective Feedback 25
Basically, feedback is information about how we are doing in our efforts to reach a goal. I hit a tennis ball with the goal of keeping it in the court, and I see where it lands—in or out. I tell a joke with the goal of making people laugh, and I observe the audience’s reaction—they laugh loudly or barely snicker. I teach a lesson with the goal of engaging students, and I see that some students have their eyes riveted on me while others are nodding off.
Here are some other examples of feedback:
• A friend tells me, “You know, when you put it that way and speak in that softer tone of voice, it makes me feel better.”
• A reader comments on my short story, “The first few paragraphs kept my full attention. The scene painted was vivid and interesting. But then the dialogue became hard to follow; as a reader, I was confused about who was talking, and the sequence of actions was puzzling, so I became less engaged.”
• A baseball coach tells me, “Each time you swung and missed, you raised your head as you swung so you didn’t really have your eye on the ball. On the one you hit hard, you kept your head down and saw the ball.”
Note the difference between these three examples and the first three I cited—the tennis stroke, the joke, and the student responses to teaching. In the first group, I only had to take note of the tangible effect of my actions, keeping my goals in mind. No one volunteered feedback, but there was still plenty of feedback to get and use. The second group of examples all involved the deliberate, explicit giving of feedback by other people.
Whether the feedback was in the observable effects or from other people, in every case the information received was not advice, nor was the performance evaluated. No one told me as a performer what to do differently or how “good” or “bad” my results were. (You might think that the reader of my writing was judging my work, but look at the words used again: She simply played back the effect my writing had
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26 On Formative Assessment
on her as a reader.) Nor did any of the three people tell me what to do (which is what many people erroneously think feedback is—advice). Guidance would be premature; I first need to receive feedback on what I did or didn’t do that would warrant such advice.
In all six cases, information was conveyed about the effects of my actions as related to a goal. The information did not include value judgments or recommendations on how to improve. (For examples of information that is often falsely viewed as feedback, see Figure 3.1 below and Figure 3.2 on p. 30.)
Decades of education research support the idea that by teaching less and providing more feedback, we can produce greater learning (see Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Hattie, 2008; Marzano, Pickering,
Figure 3.1: Feedback vs. Advice
u You need more examples in your report. u You might want to use a lighter baseball bat. u You should have included some Essential Questions in your unit plan.
These three statements are not feedback; they’re advice. Such advice out of the blue seems at best tangential and at worst unhelpful and annoying. Unless it is preceded by descriptive feedback, the natural response of the performer is to wonder, “Why are you suggesting this?”
As coaches, teachers, and parents, we too often jump right to advice without first ensuring that the learner has sought, grasped, and tentatively accepted the feedback on which the advice is based. By doing so, we often unwittingly end up unnerving learners. Students become increasingly insecure about their own judgment and dependent on the advice of experts—and therefore in a panic about what to do when varied advice comes from different people or no advice is available at all.
If your ratio of advice to feedback is too high, try asking the learner, “Given the feedback, do you have some ideas about how to improve?” This approach will build greater autonomy and confidence over the long haul. Once they are no longer rank novices, performers can often selfadvise if asked to.
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Seven Keys to Effective Feedback 27
& Pollock, 2001). Compare the typical lecture-driven course, which often produces less-than-optimal learning, with the peer instruction model developed by Eric Mazur (2009) at Harvard. He hardly lectures at all to his 200 introductory physics students; instead, he gives them problems to think about individually and then discuss in small groups. This system, he writes, “provides frequent and continuous feedback (to both the students and the instructor) about the level of understanding of the subject being discussed” (p. 51), producing gains in both conceptual understanding of the subject and problem-solving skills. Less “teaching,” more feedback equals better results.
Feedback Essentials
Whether feedback is just there to be grasped or is provided by another person, helpful feedback is goal-referenced; tangible and transparent; actionable; user-friendly (specific and personalized); timely; ongoing; and consistent.
Goal-Referenced Effective feedback requires that a person has a goal, takes action to achieve the goal, and receives goal-related information about his or her actions. I told a joke—why? To make people laugh. I wrote a story to engage the reader with vivid language and believable dialogue that captures the characters’ feelings. I went up to bat to get a hit. If I am not clear on my goals or if I fail to pay attention to them, I cannot get helpful feedback (nor am I likely to achieve my goals).
Information becomes feedback if, and only if, I am trying to cause something and the information tells me whether I am on track or need to change course. If some joke or aspect of my writing isn’t working—a revealing, nonjudgmental phrase—I need to know.
Note that in everyday situations, goals are often implicit, although fairly obvious to everyone. I don’t need to announce when telling the joke that my aim is to make you laugh. But in school, learners are often
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