LearnBop Community Blog

Assessments for Learning: The Value of Formative Assessments

Posted by Cindy Bryant

Mar 21, 2014 6:00:00 AM

The more I learn about formative assessments the more I realize just how complex and time consuming  they can be.  But I’m also reminded over and over of just how critical they are in informing and improving instruction.

If I ask you to define or describe formative assessments, many of you would respond with the ever popular, “assessments for learning”.  These are three relatively simple words that have transformed the way we think about teaching and learning.

It’s the formative assessments that provide us a wealth of information about what our students know and still need to learn. And it’s the feedback we gain from formative assessments that guide us in informing and differentiating instruction to meet individual student learning needs. Research has shown that achievement gains are maximized in contexts where educators provide students with frequent informative feedback. 

However, it’s only when the information gathered is used to help students learn that an assessment really becomes a formative assessment.  If the assessment is scored and placed in a grade book and not used in any other way to inform instruction, then it becomes a summative assessment. 

But as you know, gathering and analyzing data, and then adjusting instruction tailored to individual student’s problems takes time. And time is the one thing that most of you don’t have an overabundance of. With increased class sizes, the range in your students’ skills and abilities, professional responsibilities and preparing for the upcoming spring assessments, your plate is full and overflowing. 

The most effective and useful formative assessments give you immediate and specific feedback (data) about what students know and what they need to learn.  Not only do these assessments help you identify each student’s learning gaps, but they also help you to determine the resources and interventions that you can offer and use with the right student(s) at the right time.

Take a look at the problem https://www.learnbop.net/S/6.RP.A.3c-1 shown in Figure 1 below, which requires students to find the whole, given the part and the percent. A report of an individual student’s attempt at solving the problem is shown in Figure 2.  From the report, you can see that the student chose not to answer the initial prompt but rather to ask for help instead. The student answers incorrectly with 20% on the first attempt on Step 1, which indicates the answer was probably a copy from the percent that was given in the prompt rather than subtracting to get the correct answer of 80%.  It’s also important to note that the student spent 60 seconds on this step and didn’t use any hints, which may be an indication that he/she was merely guessing.


Figure 1



Figure 2

If this were a student of mine, I would need to look for instructional resources and interventions to modify instruction in order to help this student better understand finding the whole, when the part and percent are known.   But with LearnBop I’d have readily available recommended resources and interventions from LearnZillion and Illustrative Mathematics for this student and any others that have been identified as needing help with learning this concept.

With spring assessments just around the corner, there’s no better time than the present to take advantage of the opportunity to use LearnBop to help assess your students understanding of math concepts and assist you in modifying instruction to help individual students learn the concepts and skills they still haven’t mastered. 

We value your feedback so we invite you to share your questions, comments, and suggestions about LearnBop or ways you’re using LearnBop to support students in learning mathematics.  Thanks!

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Topics: Teachers Using LearnBop, Differentiating Instruction, Implementing the Common Core, Resources, Teaching & Learning

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