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Why should you use formative assessment in the classroom?
Formative assessment is a part of North Carolina's Balanced Assessment System which includes formative assessment, interim/benchmark assessments, and summative assessments. An assessment system is needed to inform instruction and evaluate knowledge, skills, performance and dispositions. Formative assessment assists teachers in identifying where it is necessary to make adjustments to instruction in order to help students achieve the intended instructional outcomes defined by the standards in the North Carolina Standard Course of Study. Formative assessment is used daily and is ongoing, minute-by-minute assessment that is integral to instructional delivery. The primary users of formative assessment are students and teachers. Formative assessment is a best practice that research has shown will improve student learning.

  • North Carolina's Balanced Assessment System
    (pdf, 63kb)

Formative Assessment Can Be Fun!
Formative assessment can be an exciting and productive approach to learning. Once you learn the basics, you can apply the strategies in a variety of ways that make instruction fun for teachers and students alike. We realize that teachers (especially those who have been in the field for a while) have seen one teaching technique after another come down the pike. The goal of formative assessment is to provide teachers with the basic tools and then let you decide how to implement them into your instruction.

The Tools
There are many tools or methods available to teachers when employing formative assessment. Exit tickets are an example of an effective tool to gauge students' understanding of an overall learning goal. Simply pass out index cards at the end of class and ask your students to give individual answers to questions related to the lesson. Then, just have them hand the index cards in as they leave the room. This will give you a quick snapshot of which students have a thorough understanding of the lesson and those who need some more instruction. This is just one tool at your disposal in the world of formative assessment. Relating real-world scenarios to the lesson is another way to get students thinking. For example, when discussing percentages, you might teach your students how to calculate how much they will pay for their favorite video game when it is 25% off. This reinforces concepts and provides students with skills they can apply immediately.

On-the-Fly Instruction
Have you ever tired of the same old lesson plan? Formative assessment allows you to synergize your instruction with the class. Instead of teaching to the class, you are learning with the class and responding spontaneously to students in a way that makes learning exciting. Your class is a team working together to reach a learning goal. This is especially true with group discussions. In Vignette 2 the teacher realizes that all of his students do not understand the full concept through a question asked by one of the students. He quickly adjusts the lesson plan to address the learning gap. Being creative and spontaneous in the classroom can be fun!

Isn't Formative Assessment Time Consuming?
No, in fact, formative assessment strategies can actually save you time in the classroom. Techniques such as using whiteboards in group discussions help students summarize their thoughts and give you a quick idea of who is getting the lesson and who is not. A part of formative assessment is students helping each other to learn subgoals of a larger learning goal. One way to do this is to have students compare each other's work. This enables teachers to gather feedback from the students in a timely manner.

Isn't Formative Assessment Complicated?
Once you understand the basic concepts of formative assessment and are aware of the learning tools at your disposal, then you decide how to implement them into your classroom. There is nothing complicated about the attributes that make up formative assessment. In fact, most teachers already know some of the strategies and use them on a regular basis. Formative assessment makes use of your existing teaching skills and gives you exciting options for using new tools and techniques.

The Choice is Yours
We realize that you already have a lot on your plate as a 21st century teaching professional. We only want to help ease that burden. Our advice is to give it a chance. Experience has shown that most teachers trying formative assessment reach a point where they start seeing real benefits and then they love it! Thank you for taking the time to hear our views and good luck in the classroom!

NC FALCON Evaluation Report
The NC FALCON Year 1 Evaluation Report is based on data from over 25,000 educators in North Carolina. The data in the report provides information that is key to understanding how NC FALCON impacts teachers' formative assessment practices. Use the links below to view the full report and its addendum.