Formative Assessment in the Digital World


It’s no surprise that the LMS market is fast-growing. According to a recent survey, the combined corporate and academic LMS market is predicted to grow to at least $7.8 billion by 2018. And the most-used LMS feature? That’s right: assessment and testing tools, coming in at 57%. But assessment is a big word. What kind should we be using?

There are two types of assessment: formative and summative. Summative assessment looks for the outcomes of learning objectives, such as the SATs, end-of-year exams, etc. Formative assessment is a crucial part of the learning process. Its primary goal is learning; it explores the learning process as learning is occurring, giving learners the appropriate feedback to improve their performance.

Types of Formative Assessment

Formative assessment comes in many forms, some of the most popular include:

  • Milestone goal checks, which provide learners with a goal, at the beginning of each eLearning lesson, that they are subsequently assessed on to determine whether or not they achieved the goal and how far they’ve progressed.
  • Instructor-based learning, in which the instructor observes learners and assesses the proficiency and skill level of each individual, as well as meeting with the learner to assess learning strengths and weaknesses.
  • Online learning logs where learners create a personal online learning journal that details what they are learning.
  • Group collaboration, learners work together to create an online presentation that must be presented to their peers.
  • Self-assessment and peer-assessment, in which learners assess their own eLearning experience or are evaluated by their peers with feedback and insight.
  • Visual learning tools, where students use words, pictures, and graphs, can aid in learning comprehension and helps instructors address different learning styles.

Benefits of Formative Assessment

So, what do we gain from using formative assessment instead of other forms of assessment? The data generated from formative assessment can provide:

Immediate feedback

A strong benefit to formative assessment is giving learners immediate feedback to correct weaknesses during the learning process. This real-time data also enables instructors to intervene at the start of a learning gap instead of at the end, when it’s already too late to alter the student’s outcome.

Dynamic Learning

Piggybacking on immediate feedback, formative assessment is very dynamic because it allows for change! eLearning strategies can be modified and customized to meet the needs of each individual learner as they are learning. This ability to refine curricula and method gives learners a better chance at meeting the objectives tested for in summative assessments.

Periodic Tracking

To collect quantifiable data, formative assessment gives educators the ability to track student progress and mastery of skills periodically. Learning is monitored so strengths can be tailored to and weaknesses can be addressed early on. It can also identify if weaknesses in learning or poor grades are due to actual learning deficiencies or just poor test-taking skills, allowing for the emergence of newer ways to measure learning that can better accommodate different learning styles.

Better Engagement

Non-traditional assessment methods such as such as gamification, social learning, video based learning,technology-enhanced questions (TEIs)) and more, provide a means of formative assessment that create better learner engagement, which is crucial to student success.

The Goal of Formative Assessment

The end game of formative assessment is to use the assessment data to adapt our teaching, learning, and instruction methods to better meet student needs. To do this, we have to “treat assessments as opportunities” to understand how the learning process works, and where we can create the biggest change. Forget grades and exams, this is about progress and innovation. This form of “low stakes” assessment is, at its core, designed not to assign a number or letter value to a learner but to empower them to become lifelong learners in charge of their own learning path.”

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