BEFORE: Why is formative assessment so important?


Why are formative assessment and good feedback so important

Formative assessment is super important. Here are at least three reasons why:

  • It increases learner motivation.
  • It helps people learn how to learn.
  • It helps you to fine tune your learners’ progress.

Let’s look at these… Do you remember our discussion about motivation in the first collection? The best motivation is the kind that comes from inside – when you really want to do something because you set it as a goal for yourself. That’s what we called internal or intrinsic.

The worst kind of motivation is often what we call extrinsic. That means it comes from outside of ourselves.

When someone makes you do something, that’s extrinsic. When you choose to do it yourself it’s intrinsic.

In order for you or one of your learners to really want to do something themselves, they need to believe that they can do it. In other words, they need to feel confident that they can succeed in a specific situation or complete whatever the task is.

This belief is called “self-efficacy”. You don’t need to remember the term, but you would have seen this with your own learners. Some believe that they can succeed at a task and some don’t. Often this becomes self-fulfilling.

To get to the point, good formative assessment and feedback help people increase this self-belief that they can do a task or succeed at something. And this belief permeates every aspect of our teaching and learning.

So if you shift your focus away from summative assessments (like getting credits, marks or grades for example, towards formative assessment and feedback you’re more likely to increase learner motivation. The good kind.

Other things that happen is that you also start focusing on improving your students’ awareness of how they learn.

And you start to really fine tune your teaching. All of these things make you a better teacher and your learners better learners.

Here are some other things to think about. Formative assessment and good feedback:

  • Provide positive motivation and reinforce positive self-belief.
  • Promote learning and are part of better teaching.
  • Take into account individual learner progress including things that might not be included in your official programme.
  • Are learner-centered because they require that your learners are involved
  • Focus on what’s useful to your learners right at that point in time.
  • Make it clear what good literacy and numeracy skills and behaviours are for your context.
  • Help your learners understand their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Encourage conversations around how we learn things.
  • Allow you to explore ways to bridge the gap between where they are at now versus where they need or want to be.


Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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