Formative assessment has been a matter of central interest for assessment researchers and policy makers internationally for several decades now. But as authors in this issue of Assessment Matters remind us, becoming skilful in the use of formative techniques is a challenging and sometimes lonely endeavour. In many jurisdictions, such as the United States, and at some levels of schooling in particular, formative assessment has been, and often still is, understood and implemented as interim tests.
In secondary schools within New Zealand “formative assessments” are seen as practices, tests, or activities to judge achievement towards meeting standards or to diagnose gaps so that students might be readied for final tests and examinations. Authors in this issue of Assessment Matters challenge these views and uses of the term “formative”. They investigate ways in which teachers and school leaders work to improve their use of assessment to support and include learners in the learning process.
In particular, the articles in this issue address how quality evidence is collected and used in the service of learning while also acknowledging how challenging this can be.