Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction

Formative assessment is the lived, daily embodiment of a teacher’s desire to refine practice based on a keener understanding of current levels of student performance, undergirded by the teacher’s knowledge of possible paths of student development within the discipline and of pedagogies that support such development.

Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction

See the new Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction [1], written by the NCTE Task Force on Assessment and approved by the NCTE Executive Committee October 21, 2013 (also in a printable booklet format [2] and html Web page format [3]).

Listen as Cathy Fleischer and Scott Filkins, members of the NCTE Task Force on Assessment, talk about formative assessment and this new statement: Part 1 [4] and Part 2. [5]

A Formative Assessment System for Writing Improvement [6],” “A Better Grading System: Standards-Based, Student-Centered Assessment [7],” and other articles in “Knowing Better: Examining Assessment [8],” the September 2013 English Journal, and “Feed-Forward: Linking Instruction with Assessmen [9]t,” the December 2013 Voices from the Middle.


Hear Kathleen Blake Yancey talk about the response from K-20 educators to the NCTE Assessment Story Project [10] (Education Talk Radio interview, March 4, 2015).


[11]#nctechat Twitter Chat Archive [11]: Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction with NCTE member guest hosts Franki Sibberson (@frankisibberson) and Antero Garcia (@anterobot).


Excerpt from Formative Assessment That Truly Informs Instruction:


Choosing a Formative Assessment Stance

As school decision makers are poised to select new assessments, we urge them to choose a path that supports a formative assessment stance. Teachers deserve protected time and quality support as they learn to observe closely and analyze deeply; students deserve a classroom context that allows teachers to do this. Over time, this professional development raises the quality of teaching and, in turn, the level of student learning. The more teachers can see and understand what students are doing, the better they can support those students in their learning.

Beyond that, decision makers can critically analyze what authentic formative assessment is and is not. Keeping in mind the following chart, teachers and administrators together can choose and create tools and strategies that will truly inform practice, support students, and improve learning.

Formative Assessments DO Formative Assessments DO NOT
Highlight the needs of each student View all students as being, or needing to be, at the same place in their learning
Provide immediately useful feedback to students and teachers Provide feedback weeks or months after the assessment
Occur as a planned and intentional part of the learning in a classroom Always occur at the same time for each student
Focus on progress or growth Focus solely on a number, score, or level
Support goal setting within the classroom curriculum Occur outside of authentic learning experiences
Answer questions the teacher has about students’ learning Have parameters that limit teacher involvement
Reflect the goals and intentions of the teachers and the students Look like mini-versions of pre-determined summative assessments
Rely on teacher expertise and interpretation Rely on outsiders to score and analyze results
Occur in the context of classroom life Interrupt or intrude upon classroom life
Focus on responsibility and care Focus on accountability
Inform immediate next steps Focus on external mandates
Allow teachers and students to better understand the learning process in general and the learning process for these students in particular Exclude teachers and students from assessing through the whole learning process
Encourage students to assume greater responsibility for monitoring and supporting their own learning. Exclude students from the assessment process
Consider multiple kinds of information, based in a variety of tools or strategies Focus on a single piece of information



This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.