What is formative assessment, why hasn’t it worked in schools, and how can we make it better in the classroom?

Nikki Booth, Head of MFL and Music, Wolgarston High School, Staffordshire and PhD Researcher at Birmingham City University, UK


‘Smart is not something you are, smart is something you get’ (Wiliam, 2013a).

What is formative assessment?

There is more than 40 years’ research evidence to suggest that enhancing formative assessment within the classroom has a significant impact on student learning. Within the context of the UK, the term ‘formative assessment’ (also used interchangeably with ‘Assessment for Learning’) tends to be built on the pioneering work of Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam. Black and Wiliam have defined formative assessment as ‘all those activities undertaken by teachers, and/or their students to modify teaching and learning activities in which they [the students] are engaged’ (1998: p.8). What is crucial to know is that formative assessment is a process and involves working with students so that learners know where they are in their learning, where they need to be, and how they are going to get there. In short, formative assessment normally involves…

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