Formative Assessment & Feedback

Formative assessment and feedback improve and encourage learning like nothing else

Formative (as opposed to summative) assessment allows students to practice in a "low stakes" environment and allows you to gauge students’ progress, point them in the right direction, make suggestions, provide encouragement and praise, identify gaps, and correct misunderstandings. Formative assessment is any activity on the way to a culminating (i.e., final or summative) assessment for which you assess students’ performance.

Providing high-quality feedback in formative assessment is of utmost importance. The FIDeLity model is a useful approach to the provision of feedback (and a rather clunky acronym):

Frequent: Give feedback daily, weekly, or as frequently as possible. This can be done via comments in Speedgrader or through automatically generated feedback in quiz questions.

Immediate: Give feedback as soon as possible. Make sure that you schedule time for yourself immediately after students submit their work.

Discriminating: Make the differences among poor, acceptable, and exceptional work as clear as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to use a grading rubric (about which you’ll learn more in this module).

Loving: Be compassionate in the way you give feedback. Harsh feedback is typically received as punishment, and punishment leads to aversion.

Here are some good practices for providing feedback to your students

Facilitate the development of self-assessment (reflection) in learning.

  • Ask students what kinds of feedback they would like.

  • Assign reflective activities.

Encourage teacher and peer dialogue around learning.

  • Ask students to identify examples of feedback they found helpful.

  • Use guided peer review.

Help clarify what good performance is (the goals, criteria, and standards expected).

  • Use grading rubrics to make expectations clear.

  • Provide students with worked examples.

Provide opportunities to close the gap between current and desired performance.

Deliver high quality information to students about their learning.

  • Relate feedback to predefined criteria.

  • Provide actionable feedback, not just information about strengths and weaknesses.

Encourage positive motivational beliefs and self-esteem.

  • Use low-stakes assessments for formative feedback.

  • Make grades final only after giving students a chance to revise.

Provide information to teachers that can be used to help shape the learning.

  • Ask students to identify what they find difficult when they submit work.

  • Use anonymous one-minute papers with the Canvas Survey feature at the end of a Zoom session.