FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT:FOUR UNDERSTANDINGS PLUS ONE PUZZLE W. James Popham University of California, Los Angeles KDE/ISLN/KLA Leadership Networks Joint Summer Conference Lexington, Kentucky June 20, 2011
Formative Assessment: Four What/Why Understandings and One Serious Puzzle • What It Is and What It Isn’t • What It Can Do and What It Can’t • Why Partitioning it Can Pay Off • Why Learning Progressions Must Lurk ********* • How Can We Get More Kentucky Teachers To Actually Use It?
Formative Assessment:What It Is and What It Isn’t Formative assessment is a planned process in which assessment-elicited evidence of students’ status is used by teachers to adjust their ongoing instructional procedures or by students to adjust their current learning-tactics.
Formative Assessment:What It Is and What It Isn’t • It is not a test. • It is not an interim test (also referred to as a benchmark or periodic test) administered every few months by schools or districts. • It is not the unplanned, serendipitous use of student cues to adjust teaching.
BUT FIRST, A BIT OF PAIR-FARE • TURN AND TALK • BEND AND BANTER • ROTATE AND RAMBLE (Alliteration always trumps clarity.)
PAIR-FARE CLARIFYING Please turn to one or more nearby neighbors, and assume they are not educators but, rather, laypeople who are concerned about Kentucky schools. They have just asked you to tell them what is meant by this “formative assessment stuff.” Take turns describing what’s meant by that label.
Formative Assessment:What It Can Do and What It Can’t In a research review based on 250 empirical studies of classroom assessment that had been drawn from more than 680 published investigations, Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam concluded: “The research reported here shows conclusively that formative assessment does improve learning.” (Assessment in Education, 1998)
Formative Assessment:What It Can Do and What It Can’t Two Other Quotes from the Research Review: • The student gains in learning triggered by formative assessment were “amongst the largest ever reported for educational interventions.” • “Significant gains can be achieved by many different routes, and initiatives here are not likely to fail through neglect of delicate and subtle features.”
And, More Recently . . . “There is now a strong body of theoretical and empirical work that suggests that integrating assessment with instruction may well have unprecedented power to increase student engagement and to improve learning outcomes.” (Wiliam, D., 2011, Studies in Educational Evaluation)
Formative Assessment:What It Can Do and What It Can’t It cannot raise scores sufficiently on instructionally insensitive accountability tests such as those so widely used these days to satisfy the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.
A PAIR-FARE ISSUE Imagine that you are in a discussion with several educational colleagues, and one of them exclaims, “There’s no real research support for formative assessment, just a bunch of vendors trying to bilk us educators!” Do you agree with this sentiment? How would you respond to your colleague’s claim?
Formative Assessment:Why Levels Can Lead to Lucidity • Because there are two potential sets of players (teachers adjusting instruction and students adjusting learning tactics), it is often confusing to lump the two together. • Because there are substantially different varieties and levels of implementation, clarity can be compromised by regarding one variant of formative assessment as coterminous with another variant.
Level 3 Shifts • Learning Expectations • Responsibility for learning • Role of classroom assessment Level 4 Strategies 1. Professional Development 2. Teacher Learning Communities Four Levels of Formative Assessment Level 4: Schoolwide Implementation Level 3: Classroom-Climate Shift Level 2: Students’ Learning-Tactic Adjustments Level 1: Teachers’ Instructional Adjustments Learning Progressions • Teachers’ Level 1 Steps • Identify adjustment occasions. • Select assessments. • Establish adjustment triggers. • Make instructional adjustments? • Students’ Level 2 Steps • 1. Consider adjustment occasions. • Consider assessments. • Consider adjustment triggers. • Adjust learning-tactics?
FIVE APPLICATIONS OF THE PROCESS • Immediate Instructional Adjustments (based on assessments or self-reports) • Near-Future Instructional Adjustments • Last-Chance Instructional Adjustments • Students’ Learning-Tactic Adjustments • Classroom Climate Shifts
Immediate Instructional Adjustments Near-Future Instructional Adjustments Last-Chance Instructional Adjustments Students’ Learning Tactic Adjustments Classroom- Climate Shifts The Formative-Assessment Process
ANOTHER PAIR-FARE FORAY Which, if either, of the two subdivisions of formative assessment (the four levels or the five applications) do think makes more sense? Which one, if either, would incline more Kentucky teachers to hop aboard the Formative Assessment Express? Please explain your preference, or lack of one, to a neighbor.
Formative Assessment:Why Learning Progressions Must Lurk (What a learning progression is:) A learning progression is a sequenced set of building blocks (that is, subskills and/or bodies of enabling knowledge) it is thought students must master en route to mastering a more remote, target curricular aim.
Target Curriculum Aim X Subskill B An Illustrative Learning Progression Enabling Knowledge B Subskill A Enabling Knowledge A
Target Curriculum Aim Q Enabling Knowledge X Enabling Knowledge Y Subskill Z A Horizontally Represented Learning Progression
Formative Assessment:Why Learning Progressions Must Lurk (What a learning progression is not:) • A learning progression isn’t unerringly accurate. • A particular learning progression isn’t going to work for all students. • A learning progression isn’t necessarily better because it’s more complicated.
Key Choice-Points in Building a Learning Progression • Which target curricular aims? • What should be the grain-size of building blocks? • How many building blocks should be used? • Which building blocks? • How should the building blocks be sequenced?
ALMOST FINAL PAIR-FARE Please assume that you are a seasoned educator who is trying to explain to a brand new teacher why learning progressions are so important for the formative-assessment process to be as effective as its proponents contend it is. Please describe to a neighbor why learning progressions are such a big deal if one uses formative assessment.
Formative Assessment:And now for the perplexing puzzle: Given what we know about the success of formative assessment in boosting students’ achievement, why aren’t more teachers, and especially more Kentucky teachers (well known for their perspicacity, raw intelligence, and glamorous good looks), using the formative-assessment process?
THE TERMINAL PAIR-FARE If you could suggest—to the big cheeses of the letter-litany organizations (KDE/ISLN/KLA) sponsoring this conference—how to promote more Kentucky teachers’ use of formative assessment, what would you say? Please run your most potent suggestions by a neighbor.
For a no-cost copy of a study guide for using Transformative Assessment with an extended-duration professional learning community, see the following: www.ascd.org/studyguides. Scroll down to the book’s title and you’ll also find info about how to acquire this enchanting, yet insightful volume. The sequel, Transformative Assessment in Action, equally enchanting, contains Reflection Questions for each chapter rather than a study guide. My e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org