Formative Assessment should not be graded

Formative assessment is designed to give teachers useful information on where students are in their learning and what modifications need to be made in teaching and learning. Both teachers and students should view formative assessments as useful feedback to their teaching and learning process.

If a goal formative assessment is to truly allow students to “try on” their new learning and push the limits of their understanding, it is likely they will sometimes fail. Failure is an important and necessary step in learning. We want students to feel free to experiment and sometimes miss the mark on their way to understanding. The word “fail” should be redefined as “First Attempt In Learning” and celebrated along the way. What students need to grow as learners is clear feedback – information on what they did correctly, where they went off track, and what their next step should be as they move toward understanding.

The incongruity between formative assessments and grades is clear. As a learner, I am not as likely to push the limits of my understanding if I know my practice and homework are going to receive a letter grade that will impact my report card and ultimately my class standing. A distinction should be made between true formative assessment — designed to provide information on where students are in their learning and for the teacher to modify instruction — and interim or benchmark assessments which are typically periodic or quarterly assessments designed to determine where students are in their learning progress and if they are on track to meet expected learning standards. Interim and benchmark assessments, as well as summative assessments, are more appropriate for grading. Formative assessment is not.

This ‘in brief…’ article originally appeared in the May 2016 edition of UKEdMagazine.Click here to freely read online.

@hpitler Consultant – coach – Denver, USA


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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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