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Assessment for Learning – the Case for Formative Assessment Essay

This paper provides findings on assessment for learning, It begins with analysis of the formative approach in exemplary practice carried out in secondary schools in eight education systems. The second half of the paper comprises key analyses on formative assessment in adult language, literacy, and numeracy provision, and a framework for strengthening policy and practice across the sector as well as for building the evidence base. Assessment is vital to the education process. In schools, the most visible assessments are summative.

Summative assessments are used to measure what students have learnt at the end of a unit, to promote students, to ensure they have met required standards on the way to earning certification for school completion or to enter certain occupations, or as a method for selecting students for entry into further education. Ministries or departments of education may use summative assessments and evaluations as a way to hold publicly funded schools accountable for providing quality education.

Increasingly, international summative assessments – such as OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – have been important for comparing national education systems to developments in other countries. But assessment may also serve a formative function. In classrooms, formative assessment refers to frequent, interactive assessments of student progress and understanding to identify learning needs and adjust teaching appropriately.

Teachers using formative assessment approaches and techniques are better prepared to meet diverse students’ needs – through differentiation and adaptation of teaching to raise levels of student achievement and to achieve a greater equity of student outcomes. But there are major barriers to wider practice, including perceived tensions between classroom-based formative assessments, and high visibility summative tests to hold schools accountable for student achievement, and a lack of connection between systemic, school and classroom approaches to assessment and evaluation.

The principles of formative assessment may be applied at the school and policy levels, to identify areas for improvement and to promote effective and constructive cultures of evaluation throughout education systems. More consistent use of formative assessment throughout education systems may help stakeholders address the very barriers to its wider practice in classrooms.

This overview shows how formative assessment promotes the goals of lifelong learning, including higher levels of student achievement, greater equity of student outcomes, and improved learning to learn skills. The chapter then discusses barriers to wider practice of formative assessment and ways in which those barriers can be addressed, and outlines the study scope and methodology. Meeting goals for lifelong learning Each of the national and regional governments participating in this study promotes formative.


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