Phelan, J., Choi, K., Vendlinski, T., Baker, E., & Herman, J. (2011). Differential improvement in student understanding of mathematical principles following formative assessment intervention. The Journal of Educational Research, 104, 330-339.
Phelan and colleagues implemented a randomized, controlled study design to examine the impact of a formative assessment strategy on middle school students’ mathematics understanding. Participants included students (N = 4,091) and teachers (N = 85) across seven school districts. Students in the treatment group completed formative assessments over eight class periods while teachers participated in 9 hours of professional development and had access to instructional resources. All students completed pretest at baseline and posttests after the formative assessment intervention. The researchers addressed and assessed mathematics understanding in four domains related to Algebra: 1) rational number equivalence; 2) properties of arithmetic, specifically the distributive property; 3) principles for solving linear equations; and 4) application of these principles to other areas. Results indicate that the treatment group outperformed students on the properties of arithmetic measure (distributive property), though not in other domains of understanding. Item analysis, teacher interviews, and observations revealed that the properties of arithmetic items were more challenging for students than the items in other domains. Findings also show that students with higher pre-test scores demonstrate greater gains and thus, benefit more from the treatment. The researchers recommend that future work use longer-term formative assessment interventions and include other measures (e.g., teacher implementation) to better understand limited intervention impacts.
Action for Learning, Formative Assessment