Adult Learner

Systems Change
Adult Learner > Strategies > Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment


Formative assessment is "assessment for learning" rather than "assessment of learning". In terms of lifelong and lifewide learning, it is often called "learning-oriented assessment", since the focus is on fostering a Learner Mindset by providing feedback, reflection, and revision opportunities rather than evaluation. Embedding assessments throughout instructional activities for feedback and growth opportunities rather than evaluation of achievement, serves a variety of purposes in instructional settings. Learners have the opportunity to make mistakes in a low-risk environment, receive meaningful feedback from the instructor to understand their progress, and revise their work to support a cycle of learning. Formative activities and assessments also help to inform instruction as instructors also gain meaningful information about learner progress. These activities can positively boost learner Emotion and intrinsic Motivation, helping to ease academic anxiety as the emphasis is placed on the learning process rather than final achievement.

Use It In Your Learning Environment

Immediate feedback is a critical element of formative assessment, since it allows learners to monitor their own progress, engage in purposeful reflection, and learn through revision. To strengthen learning, instructors should provide meaningful, explicit, and timely feedback to learners, focusing on specific learning targets. There are many different techniques for incorporating formative activities and assessments in an educational setting. Exit tickets can be modified for adult learners after instructional sessions by having them write reflections or answer brief questions to assess learning. Posing higher order questions throughout instruction to encourage learner discussion can increase Attention and support both Short and Long-term Memory. Other techniques include one sentence summaries, concept mapping, and directed paraphrasing. It is important to build a safe environment in which learners feel they can meaningfully participate.

Formative activities and assessments can be especially effective in content instruction, particularly with Numeracy skills. Digital platforms can allow instructors to create anonymous online content quizzes to help learners understand their progress in a low-stakes way. These quizzes can include higher order questioning and have interactive commenting functionality to increase communication between instructors and learners. For math quizzes, these platforms should allow teachers to utilize similar question formats with random number generation for both practice and assessment opportunities. For all online quizzes, answers should be provided upon completion and allow learners to repeat quizzes to check their understanding. Online writing platforms that allow for collaboration and real-time commenting can support teachers in providing meaningful formative feedback to learners that is interactive. Posts in online discussion forums can also serve as a tool for formative assessment.