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Improving Formative Assessment Practice to Empower Student Learning

Improving Formative Assessment Practice to Empower Student Learning

Foreword by W. James Popham

Additional resources:

October 2012 | 160 pages | Corwin
Supercharge your formative assessment skills and watch student learning soar!

Teachers routinely ask and answer a series of three questions with and for students: Where are my students headed? Where are they right now? How can I close the gap between where they are and where I want them to be? This text suggests that teachers also ask these parallel questions of themselves:

Where am I going?

What can formative assessment practice look like?

Where am I currently in my formative assessment practice?

How do I close the gap?

Readers are then encouraged to select a specific aspect of formative assessment to investigate, explore relevant personal practice relevant to that aspect, implement necessary changes, reflect on those changes, and continue the change process.

This practical guide can be used by individual teachers or collaboratively as a study guide for a learning community. The authors describe an effective four-step process for improving teachers' formative assessment practices that provides opportunities to reflect, consider alternative instructional approaches, and apply what they have learned. Case studies provide examples of formative assessment in practice, along with examples of teacher-implemented changes. A companion website includes an array of tools and templates for organizing, gathering, and systematically using information to strengthen formative assessment skills.

This practical guide can be used by individual teachers or collaboratively as a study guide for a learning community. Case studies provide examples of formative assessment in practice, along with examples of teachers implementing changes in their practice. A companion website includes an array of tools and templates for organizing, gathering, and systematically using information to strengthen formative assessment skills.

List of Web Tools
About the Authors
Who Is This Book For?

Special Features of This Book

Chapter Highlights

1. Introduction to Improving Formative Assessment Practice
Formative and Summative Assessment

Evaluation and Formative Assessment

Evaluation and Professional Development

The Self-Evaluation Process

Overview of the Chapters

2. Examining Formative Assessment
Formative Assessment in Practice

Understanding Formative Assessment

The Impact of Formative Assessment on Learning

Formative Assessment Characteristics Used in the “How-To Guide”

Summary: The Big Idea of Chapter 2

Questions for Individual Consideration

Questions for Consideration as a Learning Community

3. Getting Started on Your Self-Evaluation Journey
Beginning the Self-Evaluation Process

Developing Familiarity with Formative Assessment

Am I Ready to Engage in This Process?

Summary: The Big Idea of Chapter 3

4. A Targeted Look at One Area
Personal Reflection on Strengths and Areas for Improvement

Collecting Evidence of Practice

Assessing Quality of Information

Selecting an Area for Improvement


Summary: The Big Idea for Chapter 4

5. Support for Making Changes to Practice
The Cycle-Within-The-Cycle: Act, Reflect, Revise

Sources of Support

How Will I Know When I am Ready to Choose a New Target or Characteristic?

Summary: The Big Idea of Chapter 5

6. Self-Evaluation of Changes to Practice
Chain of Evidence

Collecting Evidence of Effects

Sources of Evidence

Additional Considerations

Summing Up

Summary: The Big Idea of Chapter 6

7. Putting It All Together


“This book belongs on the desk of all teachers who are committed to increasing student learning. The authors explain how to implement formative assessment practices in a realistic and manageable way. I found creative examples from the book that I was able to incorporate into my lessons the very next day!”

Nicole Cobb, Director, Center for School Climate
Tennessee Department of Education

This text is an excellent tool to help teachers understand the power of formative assessments. Learning how to reflect on your own practice, collect evidence of student learning, and use this as a lens to guide your own teaching is liberating and the hallmark of a professional.”

Sherry L. Markel, Professor
Northern Arizona University College of Education

“This book provides a very useful way for teachers to implement a study and improvement of their assessment methods. Instead of a lot of professional jargon that could turn off the busy teachers who are looking for something useful, it contains aids that will strengthen classroom performance.”

Barbara Weaver, Adjunct Faculty
College of William and Mary, School of Education, Williamsburg, VA

"This is the book I was looking for when I was teaching and supervising teachers. I appreciate the much- needed focus on the "Self-Evaluation Journey." I hope to see a copy in every educator’s hands as they deal with the enormous challenges facing all of us with life-long commitments to student learning."

Donald B. Yarbrough, Chair Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation
University of Iowa Educational Measurement and Statistics Department

Elizabeth Caroline Wylie

E. Caroline Wylie is a research scientist at Educational Testing Service. She holds a undergraduate degree in Applied Mathematics and Physics, a postgraduate certificate in teaching mathematics and information technology and a doctorate in educational assessment, all from Queen’s University, Belfast. Her current research addresses issues of the use of formative assessment to improve classroom teaching and learning. She has been involved in projects that are focused on the creation of effective, scaleable and sustainable teacher professional development. Related research projects have focused on the formative use of diagnostic questions for... More About Author

Arlen R. Gullickson

Arlen R. Gullickson, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at Western Michigan University. He served as The Evaluation Center director from 2002 to 2007 and as its Chief of Staff of from 1991-2002. Dr. Gullickson chaired the Joint Committee on Standards for Educational Evaluation from 1998 to 2008 during which time the Committee developed The Student Evaluation Standards (2002), revised The Personnel Evaluation Standards, Second Edition (2007), and was engaged in revising The Program Evaluation Standards, Second Edition (1994) for the 3rd edition published in 2010. He has worked extensively in education as a secondary math and science teacher,... More About Author

Katharine Elizabeth Cummings

Dr. Cummings earned a Ph.D. in Secondary Education with an emphasis in teacher preparation at the University of Illinois in 1989. Prior to that time, she was a high school teacher and counselor in Fargo, North Dakota. Cummings directed the secondary education program at North Dakota State University before moving to Western Michigan University in 1999. She has coordinated the School/University Partnership Team at WMU and was co-coordinator of the CITE Collaborative with Kalamazoo Public Schools in 2002-03. Currently, Cummings serves as the associate dean of the College of Education and Human Development at WMU and provides technical... More About Author

Pauline E. Egelson

Dr. Paula Egelson is the director of leadership research at the Southern Regional Education Board in Atlanta. She was formerly the director of the Center for Partnerships to Improve Education at the College of Charleston (SC). Dr. Egelson has an undergraduate degree in child development, a master’s degree in reading education, and a doctorate in educational leadership. She has worked as a community organizer, a school improvement and literacy program director for a federally-funded educational lab, a K-8 classroom teacher, and as a reading specialist. Dr. Egelson has served as the principal investigator for several large literacy grants.... More About Author

Lindsay Akers Noakes

Ms. Noakes is an Assessment for Learning research fellow in The Evaluation Center and a doctoral student in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Evaluation at Western Michigan University. In this capacity, she is involved with the evaluation of numerous education programs in schools and communities. She is actively engaged in Assessment for Learning research and works toward helping educators implement research-based student assessment and evaluation practices in a variety of contexts.Ms. Noakes holds a Master’s in Mathematics Education and has been involved in numerous educational reform projects and committees. As a classroom teacher... More About Author

Kelley Marie Norman

Ms. Norman is an instructional coach working with math and science teachers for Topeka, Kansas, Public Schools. She has a Bachelor of Elementary Education and English Literature from Washburn University. Her teaching experience includes 4th grade and 6th grade math. Ms. Norman serves on her district's committee for curriculum and assessment and is particularly passionate about the creation, administration, and analysis of formative assessments for the purpose of increasing student achievement in her district. Kelley has been actively involved in the formative assessment work we engaged in through the NSF grant. More About Author

Sally Anne Veeder

Prior to her retirement from Western Michigan University in September 2010, Ms. Veeder served as assistant director of the WMU Evaluation Center for more than 26 years. Included in her many duties (supervising staff, serving as a member of several project staff projects, signing off on the proposals and reports developed by staff members, approving travel and other expenses, etc.) was proofreading/editing the many proposals, reports, correspondence, and books that were developed/written by Center staff members. In addition, she collected and wrote the information/contributions of Evaluation Center staff for the bimonthly University... More About Author

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