What is it?
Formative assessment supports students’ learning throughout a course and usually do not count towards final marks. It is different from summative assessment which typically evaluates what students have learnt and do count towards final marks. Formative assessment is designed to help students know how they are doing and identify areas in their learning which they have mastered and others which require their attention. It typically involves qualitative feedback (rather than marks) on students’ performance, in class or on assignments. It is also an opportunity for the lecturer to check how the class is performing and whether they need to modify the learning activities to suit the needs of the students. So feedback is key to formative assessment and is an opportunity for lecturers and students to engage in a dialogue about learning.
Formative assessment is varied and may include the following (among others):
- quick tests or quizzes followed by instant automated feedback (online quiz) or feedback from the lecturer
- brainstorm activities/ classroom discussions where students contribute on a particular topic. This gives the lecturer an idea of what students already know and how much they contribute to the activity, and helps him plan future learning activities. This is also an opportunity for students to check what they and their peers already know about the topic.
- coursework which is presented or discussed in class and receive peer and lecturer feedback
- speaking in a foreign language in grammar classes followed by ongoing feedback from the lecturer
How can students make the most of it?
Formative assessment activities are ongoing and offer many opportunities for feedback from peers and lecturers throughout the course. These are great opportunities for students to adjust their learning and deal with any issues prior to examination. It is important to engage with these activities as much as possible even though they might not count towards the final mark as they are a chance to reinforce the learning and eventually improve the final mark as a result.