Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is about assessment for learning as opposed to summative where assessment is of learning. It is assessment that can range from the very informal to the very formal in its design but the key thing is that it gives feedback to students so that they can move forward in their learning. It will identify the standard of work that a student is presently achieving thus providing information about progress to date. This will in itself help a student to understand what is expected of him/her in relation to academic expectations and give suggestions as to how to develop work further in order to improve. For this to happen it is important that feedback is meaningful to the student and this works best when there is opportunity for discussion of the feedback. Formative feedback should take a balanced approach highlighting the positives as well as the negatives of a piece of work that a student submits. This is necessary to build the self efficacy of a student and means that formative assessment provides a safe environment in which students can make mistakes and learn from them as opposed to the subsequent penalties of summative assessment.


Formative assessment, designed appropriately, can enable students to improve their self-regulatory skills so that they manage their education in a less haphazard fashion than is commonly found. It will help students to set short term goals, assist them in managing time and build self efficacy all important elements of success.


Formative assessment can be tutor led, peer or self assessment. The ultimate aim should be to develop a students ability to self assess in a formative manner so that they develop the skills of self-evaluation necessary for lifelong learning.

Contributed by Mandy Asgher

 Publications of interest

David J. Nicol; Debra Macfarlane-Dick Vol. 31, No. 2, April 2006, pp. 199–218 Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice  Studies in Higher Education 
John Pryor Barbara Crossouard  Vol. 34, No. 1, February 2008, pp. 1–20 A socio-cultural theorisation of formative assessment  Oxford Review of Education 
Maddalena Taras Vol 9(2): 172–192, 2008 Summative and formative assessment: Perceptions and realities  Active Learning in Higher Education 
Middlesex University Mental Health and Sicial Work CETL 2007 Literature Review on Formative Assessment in Higher Education Review middlesex university  
William D and Black P Vol. 29, No. 5, October 2003 In Praise of Educational Research:Formative assessment  British Educational Research Journal 
Showing 5 items from page Formative Assessment publications sorted by Author. View more »

Recommended links

DescriptionLinkRecommended byComment
Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice; Mar 1998, Vol. 5 Issue 1, Black, Paul Link through to ATHENS Mandy Asghar May 2008 Needs ATHENS access 
CETL Afl Link to Northumbria University Mandy Asghar May 2008 The website for Assessment for learning CETL at Northumbria University incorporates the 6 conditions for assessment for learning, at least 4 of which are linked to formative assessment. It also has useful resources. 
Dylan Wiliams website Dylan Wiliam Mandy Asghar Dylan Wiliam is particularly well known for his research in relation to primary and secondary education. He has also written extensively about formative assessment and much of this has lessons for Higher Education. His website has links to publications and also podcasts where he talks about "assessment for learning" 
Formative Assessment Higher Education Academy Mandy Asghar May 2008 Searching formative assessment on the Higher education academy website contains a large number of resources including case studies and examples in practice 
Formative Assessment Link to New Zealand site Mandy Asghar May 2008 Although not entirely related to Higher Education this New Zealand website has some useful resources including powerpoint presentations about formative assessment. There is also a list of notable quotes about formative assessment 
Showing 5 items from page Formative Assessment links sorted by Description. View more »

Teacher Fellows with a particular interest in this area are:

Topics related to Formative Assessment are: