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Post date: Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Breaking down formative assessment

Teachers need resources that are designed to be a part of their normal classroom programme.

. ‘…much of what teachers and learners do in classrooms can be described as assessment. That is, tasks and questions prompt learners to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills…’  TKI: Assessment for Learning 10 principles 

 So many teachers have marvellous conversations with children about the learning they’re involved in, conversations that offer rich information about what the child knows and doesn’t know. However, because the teacher might not have made a plan to gather information in this way, and because they haven’t got a notebook around their neck to record every comment,  they forget, and this valuable information can be lost. Do you plan to collect information ‘on the go’? Often it comes down to finding just the right activity, or question, that has a good match with the agreed learning intention.

A great source of excellent questions and activities can be found on the Assessment Resource Bank.  There are over 3500 items in English, Maths, and Science from Level 1 -5 of the curriculum to choose from. These tasks are carefully designed to:

  •  Match the intended learning focus 
  • Offer learning criteria that you can use to measure children’s understanding-
  • Offer feedback about the skills and understandings for the students and the teachers-
  • Encourage conversations either between students, or the teacher and students

A great thing about using the MSWord version of the ARB tasks, is that you can change the success criteria ‘on the go’. The class can negotiate their own success criteria for the task and you simply type them in.

Now, how to collect the information. Here are some suggestions you can use in your classroom to gather information, BUT REMEMBER:

  • You have to PLAN to gather this data 
  • You have to be alert and listening to the children 
  • You need to know that this is the purpose of the conversation or observation. 

Collecting the Information 

Any task or activity that helps a student and teacher pinpoint important learning needs may be used for formative assessment. You can collect information through:

  • Observation
  • Questioning
  • Setting tasks that require students to use skills or apply ideas
  • Holding conversations with the students about their work.

If you would like further advice or discussion on formative assessment please contact the Education Adviser - Cathie Johnson (0)4 802 1386 or Email:

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