The Classroom Assessment KnowledgeBase

The Classroom Assessment KnowledgeBase is an online resource for state departments of education to use as part of their professional development efforts with districts and schools. Organized around five elements, it brings together concepts, how-to guidance, tools, and resources about classroom assessment.

Task 2: Understand the Rationale for Formative Assessment


Guideline: To be willing practitioners of ongoing formative assessment, district and school staff members must grasp the rationale for including the tool as part of the assessment process. Possessing this understanding enables the staff members to embrace, apply, and speak knowledgeably about formative assessment.

Formative Assessment: An Enabler of Learning

This Assessment and Accountability Comprehensive Center brief on formative assesssment explains how it is used to improve student learning.

Formative Assessment: Not Just Another Test

This WestEd article explains how formative assessment is a process to help teachers understand their students learning progress.


Helping Students Understand Assessment

In this Educational Leadership article, author Jan Chappius offers seven strategies designed to help students better understand learning goals, recognize their own skill level in relation to the goals, and take responsibility for reaching the goals.


Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment

In this 1998 article, Black and Wiliam present evidence pointing out the usefulness of formative assessment for raising the standards of classroom achievement. In it, they emphasize that formative assessment is the most effective tool for improving student achievement.


Putting Testing in Perspective: It's for Learning

In this article, Rick Stiggins and Stephen Chappuis suggest an approach to formative assessment within the context of assessment for learning. As an instuctional tool, true formative assessment will bring teachers and students together every step of the way.

Element 1: Determine the Goals of the Formative Assessment

Purpose: Developing effective formative assessments begins with an understanding of the fundamentals. These include being knowledgeable about the basic concepts, being able to define "formative," and establishing goals and objectives for formative assessments. Element 1 outlines these tasks and offers resources for the classroom teacher to gain such understanding.

Activity 1: Understand the Basic Concepts of Formative Assessment

Activity 2: Define Formative Assessment

Activity 3: Determine the Objectives for the Assessment

Element 2: Design or Select the Assessment

Purpose: Assessments used in the classroom can be designed locally by teachers or selected from any number of commercial or other professional sources. Regardless of an assessment's origin, teachers must first plan what they intend to accomplish with the assessment. Upon doing so, they can determine whether a pre-existing or new assessment will best meet their needs.

Activity 1: Plan the Assessment

Activity 2: Evaluate Pre-existing Assessments

Activity 3: Develop Own Assessment

Element 3: Administer the Assessment

Purpose: Administering assessments includes conducting and scoring. Conducting the assessment addresses the when, where, and how of doing so. Scoring the assessment focuses on the scoring rubric, determining individual scores, and analyzing the results. Both are essential parts of administering the assessment.

Activity 1: Conduct the Assessment

Activity 2: Score the Assessment

Element 4: Understand and Interpret the Assessment Results

Purpose: When used properly, assessment results enhance instruction. It is incumbent upon teachers to understand, know how to interpret, and explain the results effectively to their students, parents, and other district and school staff members.

Activity 1: Produce and Review Assessment Results

Activity 2: Inform and Collect Feedback from Constituencies

Element 5: Make Adjustments in Instruction and Assessment

Purpose: Good assessments provide the basis for making adjustments in instruction as well as future assessments. Assessment results show teachers where changes need to be made in instructional approaches for groups of students or individual students. The assessment outcomes also show students what they need to do to improve their learning. Changes to instruction based on assessment results complete the learning cycle.

Activity 1: Make Adjustments to Instruction

Activity 2: Make Adjustments to the Assessment