Michael Scriven coined the terms formative and summative evaluation in 1967, and emphasized their differences both in terms of the goals of the information they seek and how the information is used. For Scriven, formative evaluation gathered information to assess the effectiveness of a curriculum and guide school system choices as to which curriculum to adopt and how to improve it. Benjamin Bloom took up the term in 1968 in the book Learning for Mastery to consider formative assessment as a tool for improving the teaching-learning process for students. His subsequent 1971 book Handbook of Formative and Summative Evaluation, written with Thomas Hasting and George Madaus, showed how formative assessments could be linked to instructional units in a variety of content areas. It is this approach that reflects the generally accepted meaning of the term today. For both Scriven and Bloom, an assessment, whatever its other uses, is only formative if it is used to alter subsequent educational decisions. Subsequently, however, Black and Wiliam have suggested this definition is too restrictive, since formative assessments may be used to provide evidence that the intended course of action was indeed appropriate. They propose that: Practice in a classroom is formative to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited.
Formative Assessments are about checking for understanding in an effective way in order to guide instruction. They are used during instruction (teaching) rather than at the end of a unit or course of study. And if we use them correctly, there is a chance that instruction will slow. That's okay. Because sometimes we have to slow down in order to go quickly.
What this means is that if we are about getting to the end, we may lose our audience, the students. If you are not routinely checking for understanding then you are not in touch with your students' learning. Perhaps they are already far, far behind.
We are all guilty of this one -- the ultimate teacher copout: "Are there any questions, students?" Pause for three seconds. Silence. "No? Okay, let's move on."
The simplest way of assessing the students while progressing a lesson is ask students to write a summary sentence that answers the "who, what, where, when, why, how" questions about the topic.
How to do FA?
The formative assessment process guides teachers in making decisions about future instruction. Here are a few examples that may be used in the classroom during the formative assessment process to collect evidence of student learning.