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Thinking Deeper Research Paper No.1 – Part 3


Making it Happen: Formative Assessment and Educational Technologies


Author: Janet Looney

Sponsored by: Promethean Education Strategy Group

Promethean Thinking Deeper Research Papers provide sponsorship for global experts to conduct and report on cutting-edge thinking and state-of-the-art global academic/policy knowledge with respect to the role of new technologies (innovative tools and organization) in meeting the challenges of learning in the 21st Century.


No one component in education is more important for bringing together all of the elements needed for a leap in educational productivity than assessment. Assessment is perhaps the most cross cutting enabler of transformations in learning processes and outcomes. It touches all aspects of the learning process. Rich, multi-dimensional and timely feedback as one learns provides a way to refine and direct both the tools and objectives of learning. This Promethean Thinking Deeper paper provides a general overview of the nature and uses of assessment to support learning in education today. The research reviewed below shows not only why and how assessment plays a pivotal role in improving the overall productivity of learning processes but also the growing role of new technologies and the new organisational approaches these tools enable.

The Wired Classroom: Supporting Formative Assessment Through Technology

In many ways, this is an exciting time in the field of education. We are learning more about learning. We know more, for instance, about how students progress from novice to more expert levels of performance in different subject domains, and about how they develop sophisticated skills for problem solving and collaboration. We also know more about the importance of assessment as an integral part of the learning process (Bransford et al., 1999; Pellegrino et al., 1999). This report focuses on the key role of formative assessment in supporting learning. Formative assessment refers to the frequent assessment of learner progress to identify learning needs and shape teaching. Innovations featuring formative assessment may lead to substantial learning gains – according to empirical evidence reported by Black and Wiliam (1998) “among the largest ever reported for educational interventions” (p. 140). Moreover, formative assessment methods are, in some cases, particularly effective for lower-achieving students, so it is possible to both reduce inequity of student outcomes and raise overall levels of achievement.

Yet a number of studies have found that effective classroom assessment is rare. Teachers are more likely

to emphasise rote learning and develop superficial questions (Black, 1993; Black and Wiliam, 1998; Stiggins et al., 1989). Teachers may have difficulty developing strategies to elicit information on student understanding of conceptual content, or to respond to identified needs. An OECD (2005) study on implementation of formative assessment in international classrooms found that while the concept of formative assessment may resonate with teachers, many protest that it is too difficult to put into regular practice. Teachers note the difficulty of tailoring learning for individual students in large classes, of working with students they consider as more challenging, and of meeting extensive curriculum requirements within limited time periods.

External assessments developed for purposes of school monitoring and accountability may also undermine innovative teaching and assessment. While high stakes associated with assessment results – such as the threat of school closure or financial sanctions for poorly performing schools – are intended to provide incentives for teacher to focus on meeting high standards, they may also discourage innovation and risk taking. Highly competitive university entrance examinations or certification programmes may also have a powerful impact on classroom-based assessment (See definition of terms in Annex 1.).

Several new educational technologies designed to support formative assessment may help to address these barriers. These new technologies enhance learning and assessment, for example, by enabling more frequent feedback, creating immersive learning environments that highlight problem-solving processes and make

student thinking visible, and by providing opportunities for independent and collaborative learning. Teachers, students and parents are able to track learning over time, to identify patterns in learning, and highlight progress. New ICT-based examinations, while still in the early stages of development, have the potential to improve the integration of summative and formative assessments.

As of yet, many teachers do not take advantage of the potential of new technologies to enhance classroom assessment. They may not be aware of how to integrate technologies into classroom assessment, or may not know how to respond to student needs identified in the assessment process (Becta, 2010). Or they may be using new technologies, but to reinforce more traditional approaches to assessment –

losing out on the potential to deepen classroom interactions and strengthen inquiry-based learning.

To read more, click here http://www.prometheanworld.com/rx_content/files/PDF/MakingitHappenFormativeAssessmentEducationalTechnologies-169721.pdf



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