College of Science & Engineering

Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education

Formative Assessment

Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black were the first K-12 researchers to do a metanalysis of the impacts of formative assessment on student achievement, publishing Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment in Phi Delta Kappa, October 1998 followed by Working Inside the Black Box in Phi Delta Kappa, September 2004. Their research ultimately resulted in identifying five key strategies for formative assessment, described well in Dylan Wiliam's Research Brief for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Five "Key Strategies" for Effective Formative Assessment. The five key strategies are: clarifying, sharing, and understanding learning targets and success criteria; engineering effective classroom discussions, questions, activities, and tasks that elicit evidence of students' learning; providing feedback that moves learning forward; activating students as owners of their own learning; and activating students as learning resources for one another.

A good higher education resource for formative assessment is the assessment chapter in Scientific Thinking (2007) by Jo Handelsman, Sarah Miller, and Christine Pfund.

Learning Targets

Engineering Effective Classroom Discussions, Questions, Activities, and Tasks to Elicit Evidence of Students' Learning

Feedback that Moves Learning Forward

Student Ownership of Learning

Learning Targets and Success Criteria

Defining learning targets and success criteria for course content allows students to better assess their own understanding.  Learning targets describe the intended learning and success criteria operationalize what students will be able to do, say, or apply because of their new understanding.

File Learning Target and Success Criteria Evaluation .docx provides opportunities to evaluate sample learning targets and success criteria, as well as practice writing new learning targets and success criteria.

File Techniques for Clarifying and Sharing Learning Targets and Success Criteria.docx presents a variety of techniques for sharing learning targets and success criteria with students in large lecture classes as well as smaller group settings.

Engineering Effective Classroom Discussions, Questions, Activities, and Tasks to Elicit Evidence of Students' Learning

Dylan Wiliam has written extensively about formative assessment for a K-12 audience, providing examples of formative assessment strategies in math and science. Wiliam's first edition of Embedded Formative Assessment is an excellent resource and his discussion of diagnostic vs discussion questions on pages 93-104 is useful when designing ABCD questions or exit slips as well as when thinking about questions to drive student discussions. 

When thinking about forming and monitoring groups while students are engaged in discussion or activities, the third edition of Elizabeth Cohen and Rachel Lotan's book Designing Groupwork has well-researched ideas about working in groups with application to the higher education context.

File Techniques for Collecting Evidence of Student Understanding.docx presents a variety of techniques for collecting evidence of student understanding in large lecture classes as well as smaller group settings.

Feedback that Moves Learning Forward

Research on feedback shows that effective feedback has the potential to improve student outcomes more than other instructional interventions. John Hattie and Helen Timperley's 2007 article The Power of Feedback describes the impacts of feedback on learning. Hattie has written several books about learning and hosts a web site called Visible Learning.

David Nicol has written extensively about feedback in higher education. His 2010 article, From Monologue to Dialogue: Improving Written Feedback Processes in Mass Higher Education provides specific feedback strategies and ideas for peer feedback in large lecture classes.

File Monologue to Dialogue Jigsaw Protocol.docx is a protocol to use with groups of instructors while reading and discussing Nicol's article.

Student Ownership of Learning

Higher education resources to help students develop ownership of their own learning include How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching (especially chapter 7, How do students become self-directed learners?) as well as Creating Self-Regulated Learners by Linda Nilson.

Kimberly Tanner's 2012 article Promoting Student Metacognition is an accessible resource for higher education strategies for metacognition.

PDF icon Metacognition Learning Progression.pdf was used as an organizer for professional development sessions on metacognition. 

PDF icon Metacognition Organizer.pdfFile Metacognition Jigsaw Part 1.docxFile Metacognition Jigsaw Part 2.docxare all documents used with chapter 7 of How Learning Works in order to read, discuss, and apply the ideas in the chapter to instructor's own practice.