Formative Assessment in Practice

The following are concepts and pedagogical techniques associated with formative assessment.

  • Setting and sharing learning intentions and success criteria that match with the current readiness of pupils.
  • Pitching activities at a degree of demand just beyond what pupils would find too easy, but not so difficult that the activities demotivate them.
  • Effective questioning to check for understanding and to distribute requests for responses evenly among the class.
  • Providing feedback that has a genuinely formative function by giving details of how to make further progress.
  • Helping pupils to reflect on and take ownership of their learning.

Using formative assessment can be challenging to implement effectively, particularly when considering the progress of an activity that is already underway. For example, the teacher might decide that part of the lesson should be put on hold if they discover through formative assessment that:

  • pupils have not understood;
  • they are struggling with a concept; or
  • a discussion has veered off-topic.

Discovering that a lesson is not going to plan and needing to alter an approach mid-lesson can be daunting for teachers and it requires real confidence to change course. The alternative, to continue when pupils aren't following, can only result in them disengaging. It’s far better to recognise when to change direction and use a remedial course of action to get learning back on track.


Assessment for Learning: 10

Professor John