Episode 99 What we are doing wrong with formative assessment

Season #4

Learn what we are doing wrong with formative assessment and how we can fix it. In this episode, Dan discusses the purpose of formative assessment and challenges Hattie's statement that all assessment is first and foremost for teachers.


What are we doing wrong?

  • We always focus on what we should be doing.
  • We focus on what we should be doing to help the students.
  • I am guilty of this, and have promoted that formative assessment is for teachers first to adjust our approach and help our students. Agreeing with many experts around including John Hattie
  • But I have since changed my mind.

The Learning Power Approach

  • I am reading The Learning Power Approach by Guy Claxton and after reading a single line I felt I had a big realisation
  • This podcast is meant to be about how we help our students become lifelong learners. There are other topics, but many focus on this.
  • If formative assessment focuses on what I do as a teacher how is it helping my students become lifelong learners? A: It’s not

Who is formative assessment for?

  • Sorry Hattie, I now disagree. 
  • If we focus on what we can do differently this does not help the student develop the thinking skills needed for lifelong learning. It just helps them get more used to being spoon fed, as the teacher changes the spoon and the drama to try and get them to eat.
  • No, we need to see formative assessment as something used by and for the student to help them identify what they need to do next. 
  • We need to teach them how to use assessment or really evidence of learning to feedback to the student how they are going. What their strengths and weaknesses are and to guide them to develop their weaknesses.

Teach the skill

  • So as teachers then, we are focusing on the skill for the student as they learn to check their own understanding and then develop actions based on the result.
  • And yes, the formative assessment helps us help them, but the focus in on helping them learn to help themselves, not to find another way we can teach them. It is to help them discover what they don’t know and another way they can learn it.

This week

  • If you do a formative assessment of any kind, switch the questions around. 
  • Instead of asking yourself what you can do differently so the student gets it, ask them how they think they are going? Where are they struggling? And then as them what they are going to do about it? If they don’t know, provide some leading questions or ideas, but don’t do the work for them.

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