Educational Assessment Research Bowen, G.L., A-Level Outline Answer

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Formative assessment gives teachers the opportunity to provide students with feedback in time to improve learning. Fluckiger, Vigil, Pasco & Danielson (2010) describe several techniques to provide formative feedback to students more frequently and to involve them more fully in the process. Although their techniques were developed specifically to enhance the learning experiences of postsecondary students across a variety of disciplines, teachers of students at all levels can adapt the ideas to their classrooms. Their goals are to "give feedback in time for revisions to occur, provide scaffolding for learners, inform instruction, and most importantly, involve students as partners in assessment" (Fluckiger et al., p. 140). The researchers believe their techniques result in improved instruction, enhanced student learning and better student products. Helping to build a productive classroom climate in which the emphasis is on learning, not grades achieved. Instructors can improve assessments by incorporating both formative and summative assessments in their instruction.

"[F]eedback given only at the end of a learning cycle is not effective in furthering student learning" (Bollag, 2006, cited in Fluckiger et al., p. 136). Formative feedback gives students an opportunity to make changes in learning behaviors and ultimately improve learning outcomes. Effective formative feedback puts students in charge of their learning and puts the focus on the learning process. It can alleviate anxiety for students by measuring progress along the learning path rather than putting the emphasis on end-products and grades.

Fluckiger et al. point out "Effective formative feedback must be specific, simple, descriptive, and focused on the task" (p. 137). Teachers of students at any level can do this successfully. In the example of the weekly spelling test, for example, a teacher could give a mid-week pre-test. Students and teachers could see immediately which words have been mastered and the words for which more study is needed. The teacher could help students develop their own best strategies for learning to spell, considering personal learning styles. For example, kinesthetic learners might practice spelling the words with magnetic letters or writing the words in sand. Auditory learners
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could spell words into a tape recorder and play back the tape. Teachers of students at higher levels could incorporate short quizzes or smaller projects so student learning is not assessed only by one or two end-products

Students' learning is enhanced when they truly believe they are stakeholders. Formative assessments provide a means by which they are involved in learning decisions and the focus is on process and progress instead of end-products and final grades. Summative assessments provide a capstone to a learning experience and can be particularly useful to teachers as they plan lessons and content for the future. Formative assessments inform instruction so that teachers can help students make meaningful changes in learning behaviors during the learning process. Both formative and summative assessments are useful in evaluating instructional effectiveness. Research by Tasdemir (2010) demonstrated the effectiveness of formative assessment in a reading program with elementary students, who made considerable gains over students in which more traditional methods of instruction and assessment were used.

Technology makes it easier for instructors to incorporate assessments designed for each individual student. Programs like Study Island, Scholastic Reading Inventory, and Star Math Assessment are software based and automatically level questions to target learners. On the Study Island website, for example, one teacher from the Pennsylvania system attributed much of the gain in math achievement -- scores jumped from 9% to 57% -- to the use of Study Island, stating "In terms of reinforcement and reiteration we find it invaluable." Feedback is immediately available so teachers can make plans for enrichment activities or remedial instruction, as needed. Assessment thus does what it is designed for, to measure student progress and help identify gaps.


Bowen, G.L., Ware, W.B., Rose, R.A., & Powers, J.D. (2007). Assessing the functioning of schools as learning organizations. Children & Schools 29 (4), 199-208.

Fluckiger, J., Vigil, Y.T., Pasco, R., & Danielson, K. (201). Formative feedback: Involving students as partners in assessment to enhance learning. College Teaching 58 (4), 136-140.

doi: 10.1080/87567555.2010.484031

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Sources Used in Documents:

Study Island. (2011). Retrieved from

Tasdemir, M. (2010). The effects of REAP reading comprehension technique on students'

success. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal 38 (4), 553-560.

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