Making It Work in Your School
Effectively integrating a variety of kinds of assessment into everyday classroom activities “can in fact produce profound changes in the role of students as learners and in the role of teachers in developing students' capacity to learn” (Black et al., 2003, p. 102-3).
Paul Black and his colleagues worked with teachers in two English secondary schools for two years on including formative assessment in their teaching in a program called King's-Medway-Oxfordshire Formative Assessment Project or KMOFAP. At the end of the project, the researchers asked themselves “whether it is possible to introduce formative assessment without some radical change in classroom pedagogy because, of its nature, this type of assessment is an essential component of classroom learning” (p. 7).
These researchers found that a natural consequence of the continuous use of formative assessment is a move toward a classroom where students not only receive regular, useful information about how their learning is progressing, they are also actively involved in activities that help them transform knowledge and skills into personally meaningful learning. Formative assessment is just one component of a student-centered classroom culture. Student-centered social studies and math classrooms use authentic activities, along with a variety of kinds of assessment to engage learners.
Teachers who were educated as students and who learned to teach in an environment where assessment consisted of final exams and papers are not likely to have the skills and information they need to use formative assessment effectively. Professional development on key topics is crucial if they are to be successful.
Teachers do not teach in a vacuum. They are surrounded by building facilities, administrators, community cultures, supplies, and fellow teachers. The effective use of formative assessment and the building of student-centered classroom cultures require strong support and leadership at every level.