What is formative assessment?

Formative assessment is recognised internationally as an integral aspect of an effective teaching and learning cycle across all phases of the education system.

Formative assessment takes place day by day and enables the teacher and the pupil to adapt their respective actions to achieve effective solutions of learning situations. How does this happen? Formative assessment through its structural philosophy of evidence elicitation, analysis and action supplies the strategies to make teaching effective and learning more deep and sustained. Formative assessment is much more embedded within pedagogy than the simplistic, commonly used expression of ‘closing the gap’ in standards-based measurement. Formative assessment has to be theorised, understood and practised within the perspective of situated teaching and learning for its full beneficial cultural and social effects on the learner as individual to be realised. Formative assessment is at the core of the philosophy of effective teaching and learning and is central to pedagogical practice in effective classrooms.

policy brief on education issued by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) can be given as an example of different approach to formative assessment. In this document it is treated basically a mean of education quality improvement. The policy brief also focuses on implementation of formative assessment into school practice and how policymakers can help promote it and, as a result, more effective education.“Tests and examinations are a classic way of measuring student progress and are integral to accountability of schools and the education system. These highly visible forms of tracking progress, known as “summative assessment” are also used by parents and employers.
But this is only part of the story. To be truly effective, assessment should also be “formative” – in other words, identifying and responding to the students’ learning needs. In classrooms featuring formative assessment, teachers make frequent, interactive assessments of student understanding. This enables them to adjust their teaching to meet individual student needs, and to better help all students to reach high standards. Teachers also actively involve students in the process, helping to develop skills that enable them to learn better.”

OECD Policy Brief, November 2005