Formative Assessment Responses

Formative assessment means more than just giving a quiz or an exit ticket. An assessment is only formative if the teacher (or her students) respond to the information gathered.

However coming up with an appropriate response is typically hard to do. After all, the most common finding in formative assessment is that a significant, but perhaps minority, group of students still do not understand a concept, after the teacher gave her best shot at helping students understand. No teachers save their best strategy for teaching a topic until later.

I’m working on a menu of possible responses teachers could come up with. Some of these responses depend on the nature of the formative assessment gathered, but most of them can be applied in many different contexts.

If you have other possible strategies teachers can try, please feel free to add them here or comment below.





  • This is the epitome of constructivism at its best. I love the idea of asking the students to climb into each other’s heads by defending (at least explaining) each other’s solutions.  My administration routinely gave birth to farm animals when they walked into my room and saw me teaching this way. They wanted ANSWERS. Correct ones. Ones that would result in graphite in the right bubble every time. That’s partially why I’m now a writer and not an educator.

    There’s a cognitive load issue here for students from deprived backgrounds. My students, many of whom relied on finger counting to solve the four function computation part of any math problem. This week, I took a look at the cognitive load placed on the student by math anxiety and by dyscalculia ( Both stressors constrict working memory. Anxiety operates on the central executive, a top-down load, taking students with lots of working memory and reducing that attribute. Dyscalculia just stuffs more of a load on working memory – a bottom-up load – than the brain can handle effectively.

    I used to think skeptically about computer-assisted instruction (CAI) for math. It seemed to me that if the student got addition and subtraction as fast counting, and multiplication and division as fast addition and subtraction, they would be motivated to know the facts. The problem for most of these students (hard to say what is organic dyscalculia and what occurs developmentally through poor teaching and home follow-up) is that they gave up on themselves too easily, saying that they “didn’t have a brain for math,” or some such rot. I am starting to be convinced that any child who gets MDAS handled at reaction speeds gives himself a gift that is measurable in terms of working memory untaxed by anxiety and the need to figure out 6+7.

  • I like the idea of challenging students to think more during schoolwork. Asking them to explain why they chose an answer is a great way to either reiterate a point, show that they truly understand it (or don’t) and it gives them a chance to understand why they got a question wrong, if they did. I also like the group work. Working in groups helps students get a better grasp on a concept. The conpare and contrast idea is great because it gives students a chance to perhaps change their answer or help another student change theirs. Also having teachers re-explain something that students are struggling with is a good idea. I hated when teachers use the whole “listen once, because I’m not saying it again” concept. It isn’t fair to expect people to pick something up the first time it is presented to them. 

  • David, I really like this series of slides. I especially like slide 4 since this anticipates what questioning often becomes and provides a better option. It might be nice to make these into index cards. Then someone could look through them while looking at student work. Obviously not as effective for real time during a class while walking around and observing students in the moment. I also wonder if it would be useful to have a sheet with all of these broken down into broad categories such as, immediate response for when a teacher can observe that multiple students have a misconception and has time to respond with a strategy, strategies that might be implemented the next day, and strategies that might be more long term. There are other ways they could be categorized.

    Is there a special reason why having students create a video explaining their steps comes after the creative commons license slide? Also slide 24 for students videoing their steps is in all caps unlike the other slides. Also in slide 5 should there be the word “each” in the first line so that it reads, “each other”?

    By the way, this might be the first time I’ve ever commented on someone’s blog. Excellent work that is easy to share, reference, and use.

  • David Wees wrote:

    Hi Blue,

    I think some sort of categorization and quick reference chart makes a lot of sense. 

    As for slide 24, this presentation was set to “anyone with the link can edit” and someone must have added that slide after I did some formatting of the presentation slides. I’ve moved that slide to a different location in the presentation and fixed the case. Thanks for pointing that out. 


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