Notes towards a theory of formative assessment. Dylan Wiliam King’s College London www.kcl.ac.uk. www.dylanwiliam.net. Outline. What is formative assessment? Putting it into practice Theorising the outcomes. Assessment for Learning.
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Notes towards a theory of formative assessment
King’s College London
Assessment for learning is any assessment for which the first priority in its design and practice is to serve the purpose of promoting learning. It thus differs from assessment designed primarily to serve the purposes of accountability, or of ranking, or of certifying competence.
Specifically, assessment for learning describes all those activities undertaken by learners and teachers to assist the learners
in finding out where they are in their learning,
where they are going, and
how to get there.
An assessment activity can help learning if it provides information to be used as feedback, by teachers, and by their students, in assessing themselves and each other, to modify the teaching and learning activities in which they are engaged. Such assessment becomes ‘formative assessment’ when the evidence is actually used to adapt the teaching work to meet learning needs.
Reviews of research provide firm evidence that Assessment for Learning practices improve learning and raise achievement
•Black and Wiliam (1998)
About 50 studies, ranging over ages, subjects and countries, compared improvements in achievements for students in ‘intervention’ groups with students in ‘control’ groups. ‘Assessment for learning’ innovations typically produced effect sizes of between 0.4 and 0.7 – larger than those found for most other educational innovations.
Which fraction is the smallest?
Success rate 88%
Which fraction is the largest?
Success rate 46%; 39% chose (b)
[Vinner, PME conference, Lahti, Finland, 1997]
[Butler(1988) Br. J. Educ. Psychol., 58 1-14]
[Frederiksen & White, AERA conference, Chicago, 1997]
[Fontana & Fernandez, Br. J. Educ. Psychol. 64: 407-417]
Target number: 127
After Nonaka & Tageuchi, 1995
[Whether formative assessments works] no longer seems to me, however, to be the central issue. It would seem more important to concentrate on the theoretical models of learning and its regulation and their implementation. These constitute the real systems of thought and action, in which feedback is only one element. ( Perrenoud, 1998, p.86)
Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler (Einstein)
I now think more about the content of the lesson. The influence has shifted from ‘what am I going to teach and what are the pupils going to do?’ towards ‘how am I doing to teach this and what are the pupils going to learn?’ (Susan, Waterford School)
There was a definite transition at some point, from focusing on what I was putting into the process, to what the students were contributing. It became obvious that one way to make a significant sustainable change was to get the students doing more of the thinking. I then began to search for ways to make the learning process more transparent to the students. Indeed, I now spend my time looking for ways to get students to take responsibility for their learning and at the same time making the learning more collaborative. (Tom, Riverside School)
They feel that the pressure to succeed in tests is being replaced by the need to understand the work that has been covered and the test is just an assessment along the way of what needs more work and what seems to be fine. [...] They have commented on the fact that they think I am more interested in the general way to get to an answer than a specific solution and when Clare [a researcher] interviewed them they decided this was so that they could apply their understanding in a wider sense.(Belinda, Cornbury Estate School)
The design process
The implementation process