Assessment for Learning – the Case for Formative Assessment

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ASSESSMENT FOR LEARNING – THE CASE FOR FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT

This paper provides findings on assessment for learning, It begins with analysis of the formative approach in exemplary practice carried out in secondary schools in eight education systems. The second half of the paper comprises key analyses on formative assessment in adult language, literacy, and numeracy provision, and a framework for strengthening policy and practice across the sector as well as for building the evidence base.

Assessment is vital to the education process. In schools, the most visible assessments are summative. Summative assessments are used to measure what students have learnt at the end of a unit, to promote students, to ensure they have met required standards on the way to earning certification for school completion or to enter certain occupations, or as a method for selecting students for entry into further education. Ministries or departments of education may use summative assessments and evaluations as a way to hold publicly funded schools accountable for providing quality education. Increasingly, international summative assessments – such as OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – have been important for comparing national education systems to developments in other countries.

But assessment may also serve a formative function. In classrooms, formative assessment refers to frequent, interactive assessments of student progress and understanding to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately. Teachers using formative assessment approaches and techniques are better prepared to meet diverse students’ needs – through differentiation and adaptation of teaching to raise levels of student achievement and to achieve a greater equity of student outcomes. But there are major barriers to wider practice, including perceived tensions between classroom-based formative assessments, and high visibility summative tests to hold...
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