Publications & Resources

The Nature and Impact of Teachers’ Formative Assessment Practices

Dec 2006

Joan L. Herman, Ellen Osmundson, Carlos Ayala, Stephen Schneider, and Mike Timms

Theory and research suggest the critical role that formative assessment can play in student learning. The use of assessment in guiding instruction has long been advocated: Through the assessment of students’ needs and the monitoring of student progress, learning sequences can be appropriately designed, instruction adjusted during the course of learning, and programs refined to be more effective in promoting student learning goals. Moving toward more modern pedagogical conceptions, assessment moves from an information source on which to base action to part and parcel of the teaching and learning process. The following study provides food for thought about the research methods needed to study teachers’ assessment practices and the complexity of assessing their effects on student learning. On the one hand, our study suggests that effective formative assessment is a highly interactive endeavor, involving the orchestration of multiple dimensions of practice, and demands sophisticated qualitative methods for study. On the other, detecting and understanding learning effects in small samples, even with the availability of comparison groups, poses difficulties to say the least.

Herman, J. L., Osmundson, E., Ayala, C., Schneider, S., & Timms, M. (2006). The nature and impact of teachers’ formative assessment practices (CSE Report 703). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).