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