Working Definition of Formative Assessment

The following working definition of formative assessment—derived from a review of the assessment literature—provides the framework for the assessment cycle:

Formative assessment is an ongoing process that provides feedback during the course of instruction to teachers and students to close the gap between current learning and a desired goal.

In this section you will find:

  • Definitions of formative assessment
  • A description of the process of formative assessment
  • Research-based strategies for formative assessment
  • References on formative assessment included in our library

Specifically, the formative assessment section can be useful to:

  • Regional Comprehensive Center (RCC) staff when illustrating the differences between formative and summative assessment to state educators.
  • District-level administrators helping site-level administrators determine ways to equip teachers with the skills to continually monitor their students’ progress.  District-level administrators might hold a meeting with school principals to review how learning develops in a domain and brainstorm effective practices for supporting teachers to implement the formative assessment process. 
  • Site-level administrators seeking resources for leading a professional development session on formative assessment.  The principal, assistant principal, and/or data team could select articles from the Formative Assessment Bibliography and use them as a basis for group discussions to deepen participants’ understanding of formative assessment.
  • Teacher leaders who understand the theory behind learning progressions and can appropriately determine learning goals and success criteria, but who are looking for more information on strategies for eliciting evidence of learning.

To proceed to the formative assessment cycle, strategies, and blibliography, either follow the links in the green column on the left or choose from the buttons below.