Formative Assessment – Facilitation vs Teaching


Formative Assessment


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Adapting the Teaching Style to suit the Learner

FA, is carried out through the year, both formally and informally by the teacher. It is diagnostic and remedial in its approach for purposes of enhancement of learning and effective teaching and learning.

It is important that teachers keep in mind

1. The learning styles —

  • Visual

  • Auditory

  • Kinesthetic

2. Multiple Intelligences inherent in each student that aids his/her learning and expression —

  • Verbal Linguistic

  • Logical Mathematical

  • Visual Spatial

  • Musical Rhythmic

  • Bodily Kinesthetic

  • Interpersonal

  • Intrapersonal

  • Spiritual

  • Environmental

FA works best when the teaching style suits the learner. Does it help to facilitate learning rather than just teach, keeping learning styles and multiple intelligences in place? This is an answer that we educators need to be convinced about. Sometimes it helps to follow the dictum —

Do not teach, let them learn.

Tools for Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment can be carried out using the following tools — Class work, Homework, Oral questions, Quizzes, Projects, Assignments, Tests. A number of techniques can be employed while using the tools. Let’s examine each of the tools.

1. Class work

What are the activities that can be done in class? What techniques can be used in class?

  • Written work

  • Oral questions

  • Essays

  • Role Plays

  • Conversation

  • Debating

  • Elocution

  • Group Discussion

  • Self Assessment

  • Peer Assessment

  • Group Activity

The teacher can also assess attitudes, skills, values, response and behavior. Some of the activities mentioned are also tools to help with both learning and assessment.

2. Homework

The purpose of homework is to provide the learner with an opportunity and an activity to revise and consolidate on the learning that has taken place in school. It is essential that the teacher pitches the anxiety levels of the child to the right degree. Homework should be neither too easy, nor very difficult. Either of these will demotivate the student.

3. Oral Questions

This activity can be a wonderful deviation from the routine teaching strategy. Instead of the teacher asking questions, let students frame the questions. Oral questions can be used for both learning and assessment.

Consider this —

  • Get students to get into groups of 5 — 8.

  • Give them the lesson to be taught. Divide it into sub topics and give each group a subtopic

  • The group will work together, read the sub topic, explain and clarify it to each other and form as many questions as they can.

  • Group A will direct a question each to a group one at a time, choosing a student to locate the answer in the text book.

  • Each group takes its turn, directing a question to a student.

Students need to comprehend in order to frame questions. And of course they need to comprehend as well, to answer the questions. Your role as a teacher would be to move around from group to group while they are framing questions and take note of areas that they need help to comprehend. At the end of the question/answer session, you can sum the lesson up and help them to understand aspects that need teaching.

The same process can be used even for peer assessment and they can be marked.

Alternately, for humanities, students can work in pairs, read a passage or subtopic and frame as many questions as they can. They can choose another pair to ask these questions. You will agree that the questions that students can raise will be more than what you as an individual can frame. You can later come up with questions of a higher order in case they are missed.

Asking good questions

Ask better questions and help your students become better thinkers. Convert simple questions into more challenging ones.

1.  Yes, but why? Why is Mother Teresa called ‘the saint of the gutters’?

7.  Rearrange, reverse, combine

2.  What’s the use? Why do you need to know the effect of

light on plant growth?

8.  Can you prove it?

3.  What’s different now?

9.  Right, wrong or neither

4.  Adapt — how would our lives be better if we hibernated?

10.  Only ‘All of the above’

5.  Modify — What would have happened if Hansel and Gretel

had a map of the forest?

11.  Alike or different

6.  Substitute — how can you now Newton’s fourth law?

12.  Stretch your imagination — square peg in round hole.

Unusual relationships. Do a Venn diagram on Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi.

4. Quizzes

Almost all subjects lend themselves to quizzes — from Mental Math, to a quiz on Force in Physics, Sciences, Social Sciences, Language, etc.

As an assignment, students can prepare quizzes. Get them to structure it and conduct it in the class, with a Quiz Master, Score Keeper, Time Keeper. A group quiz can also be organized. The group discusses the answer and writes it down. When the teacher says ‘Show’ they hold it up.

Quizzes can be used for the process of learning and assessment.

5. Projects

Projects were discussed in detail in the previous newsletter of Aug 2010. Samples of a subject based project and an integrated project were shared.

Why projects? They –

  • Provide opportunities to apply skills

  • Address students’ proficiencies

  • Stress on intrinsic motivation

  • Encourage students to determine what to work on and accept ideas of experts.

Before, after or during the preparation the teacher —

  • Helps students acquire skills

  • Addresses learning deficiencies

  • Stresses on extrinsic motivation

  • Directs students’ work and specifies learning tasks.

What are the steps in conducting a project?

  • Topic selection by both students and the teacher

  • Brainstorming to create a web of subtopics and questions

  • Culmination where students report their findings

  • Field work where they read, draw, collect data, prepare models.

  • Presentation

  • Debriefing, an important aspect where the topic is summarized and teachers ensure that learning has taken place.

6. Assignments

The purpose of assignments is to prepare the ground for learning or to assess. What can teachers give as assignments?

  • Activity from the text book

  • Collection of data

  • Reference/Research work

  • Photography

  • Video

  • Portfolio (on a country, state, an eminent personality

7. Tests

It may be a good idea to avoid a pen and paper test, apart from the 2 summative assessments. If given they can be objective type of questions —

  • MCQ’s

  • Fill in the blanks

  • Match the following

  • Answer in a word

  • Mind maps

These questions can be of varying difficulty levels and can be framed to cover various areas of learning such as — knowledge, understanding, application and skill, keeping with Bloom’s taxonomy.

Making FA successful

For a successful FA it would be good to use as many tools as is convenient for the students, though not all. These tools allow for different learning styles to be recognized and further it hones the abilities of students. The purpose of FA is diagnosis and remedy, thus please give students a feedback and take remedial action. Give scope for self and peer assessment. And primarily keep in mind the skills that need to honed and assessed for each subject.


In this section we will occasionally bring you the latest developments in the field of Education.

Good Study Habits — Are our instincts better than what we know?

A recent news report in the New York Times, presented new research by cognitive scientists that contradicts our notions of good study habits like: sit in one quiet place, focus on one thing at a time, cover as much as possible in a single shot, etc. However, studies show that studying in different locations, on related but different topics and spacing the study out instead of a single straight session, aid learning and retention.

Visit the following link to read the entire report:


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