Ready, Set, Go | March 2014

Formative assessment is the process of “frequent, interactive assessments of students’ progress and understanding to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately.” (Looney, 2001, cited in Wiliam, 2011 & Knight, 2013) Why use formative assessment? “Major reviews on the effects of formative assessment indicate that it might be one of the more powerful weapons in a teacher’s arsenal.” (Marzano, 2007) It “provides a way for teachers to dramatically increase engagement”,
“. . . increases students’ belief that they can succeed” and allows “. . .teachers to see their students’ progress.”
(Knight, 2013)


GetREADY for delivery of quality instruction by utilizing the key processes of formative assessment to determine: Where is the learner going? Where is the learner right now? and How will the learner get there or close the gap between the two? (Wiliam, 2011) In addition, consider these 5 key strategies:

Clarify, share and understand learning intentions and criteria for success
Engineer effective classroom discussions, activities and tasks that elicit evidence of learning
Provide feedback that moves learning forward
Activate learners as instructional resources for one another
Activate learners as owners of their own learning

(Wiliam, 2011)


SET the stage for the formative assessment process, by identifying the activity or task that elicits evidence of learning and provides feedback. To use those assessments effectively, employ the following practices:

Ensure that all students respond
Develop a group response ritual
Ask students to explain their responses
Use effective questioning techniques
Reinforce students as they respond
Read nonverbal cues
Create a mistake-friendly culture
Consider giving students progress charts

(Knight, 2013)


For more information about the process of formative assessment, including examples and descriptions of formative assessments, GO to:

Guiding Students to Self-Assess: A video clip excerpt from the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development’s (ASCD) PD Online® Course, “Formative Assessment: Deepening Understanding” – Adding self-assessment as part of the formative assessment process gets students to break down and internalize the individual goals or criteria within an assignment

What Teachers Really Need to Know about Formative Assessment: The Fundamentals of Formative Assessment (ASCD)
22 Easy Formative Assessment Techniques for Measuring Student Learning
50 Digital Education Tools and Apps for Formative Assessment Success


Wiliam, D. (2011) Embedding Formative Assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press
Knight, J. (2013) High Impact Instruction: A Framework for Great Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Marzano, R. (2007) The Art and Science of Teaching: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Instruction. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD).
This news brief is a collaborative effort of the Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Centers at George Mason University and James Madison University. This issue was prepared by the staff of the VDOE TTAC at George Mason University. For questions about content, please contact Judy Stockton at or Karen Berlin at or call 703-993-4496.