This post was originally published on Common Formative Assessments by Larry Ainsworth.
How can teachers really know what their impact is on student learning?
As educators, we want to make learning visible to our students. We constantly look for new ways to maximize our impact. We have so little time with our students that we need to make sure they are getting from us the feedback they need in order to move forward in their learning. Common formative assessments (CFAs) are a great way for educators and students to receive that feedback.
CFAs afford grade-level and course-level teacher teams a clear lens through which to see their instructional impact on student learning. Designed by educators for use with their own students, these unit-specific pre- and post-assessments are directly aligned to the targeted learning intentions of the unit. Accompanying success criteria describe explicitly what students are to demonstrate in their assessment responses to show they have achieved the learning intentions. Knowing what they are to learn and how their understanding will be evaluated, students are empowered to take an active role in their own learning.
Learning progressions are the smaller, sequenced “building blocks” of instruction necessary for students to understand the larger unit learning intentions. Shorter formative assessments—“quick progress checks”—occur throughout the unit after important learning progressions. These quick checks of student understanding provide immediate feedback that educators use to adjust instruction and that students use to self-regulate their learning strategies.
Student responses to CFA questions generate a wealth of credible feedback that serves two key purposes:
(1) Educators receive evidence as to the degree of their instructional effectiveness, and where any adjustments are needed.
(2) Students receive evidence as to where they currently are in their understanding of the targeted learning intentions, and where they “need to go next.”
When educators and students use feedback in these ways, CFAs can achieve their maximum potential of helping educators improve instruction and student learning.