Survey Report:

Formative Assessment: Teachers’ Practices

In our survey, we provided teachers with the following definition of formative assessment:

By “formative assessment” we mean the various ways that teachers check for student progress or understanding during instruction. The overall goal of formative assessment is to shape instruction or measure progress through instruction. This makes it different from summative assessment, which is used to measure student outcomes, often at the end of a unit.

We are interested in learning more about your formative assessment practices, and the ways you go about formative assessment during your lessons and units of instruction.

When do teachers use formative assessment?

Most teachers report using formative assessment on a regular basis at the end of a lesson. The majority of teachers regularly use formative assessment during a lesson, both spontaneously and at planned checkpoints. Teachers use formative assessment less often at the start of a unit or lesson.

What are they assessing?

When assessing for formative purposes, teachers most often check for:

What techniques are they using?

The most frequently used formative assessment technique is observing students in class. At least once during each lesson, the majority of teachers look over students’ shoulders, ask probing questions, and have students solve a problem during class.

How is assessment information used?

Teachers are using information from formative assessment on a daily basis to convey/clarify lesson objectives, change the lesson in real-time, and give feedback to students. The overwhelming majority of teachers also use information from formative assessment to modify their instruction weekly or more often.

What are barriers to conducting formative assessment?

Almost one quarter of the teachers say they do not face any barriers to conducting formative assessment. Among those who did indicate barriers, the most frequently selected barriers were related to time. Teachers’ reporting of barriers to formative assessment are consistent across subject areas and grade levels. Years of experience teaching was related to teachers reporting insufficient training for formative assessment and facing no barriers.