3 Ways to Support Formative Assessment - National Council of Teachers of English
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3 Ways to Support Formative Assessment

At NCTE, October is Connected Educator Month. We’ve been asking our members to reflect on innovations in assessment, and you have. Lisa Lienemann, an ELA teacher at Lockerman Middle School in Caroline County, MD offered the following tips for principals:

a tree of support


3 Important Ways Leaders Can Support the Formative Assessment Process


  1. Shift the Conversation

 In many places, the relationship between teachers and principals is still rooted in a punitive tradition — principals wield their pens in opposition to teacher efforts when what they see doesn’t fit the traditional boxes and molds. Formative assessment, when implemented as a process that informs teaching, is a complex approach that takes time to hone and polish. If principals want teachers to get good at it, they need to invite teachers to a new conversation, one that shifts the conversation from, “Here’s what I didn’t see. . . .” to “Why did you . . . ?” If what we want to see in our students is a growth mindset, don’t we need to encourage the same in our teachers?


  1. Let Them Get Messy

 Try. Experiment. Attempt. Jump in. Take a stab at it. Give it a go. These are some key messages leaders need to send to teachers. Teachers, as a rule, like things to be planned and outcomes to be predictable. They like the tried and true. In the 21st Century, we’ve got to let go of this a little. Advancement demands it, but unless leaders give them permission to use their classroom as one might a science lab, with a well thought-out experimentation plan and a means for analyzing and evaluating the results, teachers will continue teaching the way they always have. We already know that isn’t reaching kids at the levels it needs to and kids are becoming increasingly disaffected and disengaged from the learning process as school looks less and less like real life by the minute. Derail this train and put teachers on a new path by giving them permission to jump the tracks.


  1. Connect Efforts to Tools Already in Use

 Do you have a dusty evaluation tool in your toolbox that you’re not leveraging for teacher and student success? We did. In my district, the SLO [student learning objectives], a misunderstood and maligned creature, was seen mostly by teachers as a distasteful task that had to be completed before they started doing their real jobs. By bringing the SLO more directly into the light, key leaders understood its rationale better as a tool to encourage teacher growth and reflection, not as a caught’ya. Instead of reinventing the wheel, look around for tools already in use that might be reevaluated and reconsidered in light of the new conversation and approach.