I once said to an accountant I knew: “Doing report cards is kind of like tax season, except teachers do it 3 times a year.” That was before I realized that formative assessment was far more valuable for student learning and that report cards really should not be an “event”. A BIG event!
The purpose that report cards are supposed to serve is to let parents know how their children are doing in school and to give suggestions on how they can help at home. It’s a summative report. Oftentimes, by the time the teacher is finished writing them, editing them and getting them ready to be sent out, the child has changed in their learning. I always communicated regularly with parents at the door or on the phone so therefore, I felt that report cards were more of a formality. If we teach to get to the report card, we lose students along the way. Formative assessment allows you to really understand your students and plan lessons to move them forward. Doesn’t that sound like what education should be?
Based on the needs of each student
Immediate useful feedback is given
Embedded into instruction
The focus is on growth/progress
Goal focussed based on curriculum
Understanding that learning is on a continuum
Reflects the goals of the students and teacher
Relies on teacher expertise and interpretation rather than outsiders to score or analyze
Informs next steps for instruction
Reinforces that learning is a process
Teaches and encourages great responsibility of the student to monitor their own learning
Considers multiple kinds of information rather than a single piece and used a variety of tools or strategies.
(Adapted from NCTE)
Formative assessment is ongoing. It can be done in a small group setting, as a class (like in an exit slip format) or individually as you go around and have learning discussions with your students as they work. It can be as simple as asking clarifying questions. Many times, formative assessment requires nothing but a set of ears to listen and a set of eyes to watch, however, it is important to keep track of this learning and growth so that you can make plans to move the child forward or provide more support in certain areas.
I’ve developed a resource that takes some common formative assessment ideas and puts them into a black line master and/or printable form for students to respond on and you can keep as a record of their growth. Check out the formative fun you and your students can have! Who knew assessment could be fun! I found that the beauty of formative assessment is that my students ended up learning more than when I gave them traditional (summative) tests.
Using formative assessment all year helps you to understand your students and their learning development really well. When report card “season” begins, it is now seen as a culmination of the learning thus far that is already recorded and up to date. Viola! Report cards in a snap!
You can see this formative assessment set here. Happy teaching!