Part 4: Measurement's Answers to Formative Assessment

Navigating formative assessment can be a bear if you’re not sure where to go. That’s why we thought this series would be a great place to start off our blog. Starting with what formative assessment is, we walked through some helpful topics from what’s missing in formative assessments to what it should look like in the classroom. Not all definitions are correct or complete, and not all activities and tools are true formative assessments as they claim to be.

Any interpretation of formative assessment will involve components that will support the evaluation of teaching and learning on many levels, but as it should be part of a larger assessment process, it’s more complex than that. One of the main components that is often missing in this process is the student’s voice. What is their role in assessments? Are they only taking tests and quizzes to demonstrate their learning as a one-time activity? Student involvement should be integral to a formative assessment system, taking into account the four phases cited by P.R. Pintrich that will guide them to become more self-regulated learners.

Many teachers are already using quizzes, surveys, polls, and such to quickly gather data on their students’ learning, but this information should also reveal more about how they are learning. Furthermore, students themselves should also be able to make inferences about what and how they learn. This will provide them with data to support their journey to self-regulated learning. Any formative assessment tool that allows both teacher and student to look at data and make informed decisions on how to proceed will be more effective than any quiz or test that becomes a simple and permanent number in the grade book.

Gregory Cizek defines formative assessment as “a part of a planned assessment system that supports teachers’ and students’ inferences about learning and conceptual organization, strengths, and diagnosis of weaknesses and areas for improvement.” He goes on to say that “it is a source of information that educators can use in instructional planning and students can use to deepen their understandings, improving their achievement, taking responsibility for, and self-regulating their learning.” 

At MI, we strive to provide educators with formative assessment tools that fill the gaps left by most resources available today. Our writing program, MI Write, has been developed for students in grades 3-12 to improve their writing skills through a tight revision-feedback loop. It is powered by our PEG (project essay grade) engine that reads each submitted draft and gives individualized feedback based on The Six Traits of Writing within seconds. Teachers have the ability to see all drafts and feedback, make inferences on strengths and weaknesses, and leave comments of their own. We are always improving MI Write to be a more complete writing formative assessment tool. Learn more about MI Write here or catch up on our Write Way blog!

On the other side of the coin is MI Compass, the formative assessment tool we are developing to be the best-in-class solution to address the issues we’ve examined throughout this series. While MI Write focuses on writing, MI Compass will soon incorporate multiple subjects and allow teachers to use interactions like multiple choice, fill in the blank, matching, etc. to build their own standards-based assessments. However, we can’t create this tool alone. Nor do we want to. Like the often-overlooked student voice in formative assessment, teachers don’t have a large presence in the foundational stages of resources that are made for their use. We want educators like you to participate in the conversation that will bridge the gap, help us understand your daily struggles, victories, and needs. Join other educators on our Navigational Team today!