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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Has Formative Assessment been Oversold?

Has Formative Assessment been Oversold?

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A few months back, this blog post appeared on Edweek, which raises the question "Has the research on Formative Assessment been oversold?" http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2009/05/has-the-research-on-f... Here is the story. Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black published an article back in 1998 entitled Inside the Black Box. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_6952/is_n2_v80/ai_n28723313/?tag=c... This article presented research suggesting that more frequent informal assessments could be used to great effect. They recommended that teachers use such assessments to "inform" or modify their instruction to respond to how students were learning. They also suggested that students would learn much more if teachers de-emphasized grades and focused more on qualitative feedback. They suggested teachers share models of good work, and make it clear to students what quality work looks like. They encouraged the use of rubrics and other descriptors, so students can be guided towards high quality work. Now, more than a decade later, this article has been hugely influential. Formative assessment is a common term, and our textbooks have whole sections devoted to the practice. The blog post I referenced points out that the original study was not presented as a "meta-analysis" -- a systematic review of research. Nonetheless, some of the publishers referencing the study are terming it such as they are using it to justify their claims for the power of this practice. Furthermore, as time has passed, the effect sizes that are claimed have grown bigger and bigger -- which provokes the question -- has formative assessment been oversold? What do you think? What have your experiences been with formative assessment? Do you think it is a powerful tool? Or has it been hyped beyond reason?

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