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Readings and resources on formative assessment

There is a wealth of reports and articles available concerning the principles and practices of formative assessment. We feature a key selection of them here. Some of these articles, where they have relevance, are also featured in other pages of this website.

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OECD report: The Nature of Learning: Using research to inspire practice

The recent OECD project entitled Innovative Learning Environments has put together a volume called The Nature of Learning: Using research to inspire practice which is based on extensive research findings on different aspects of learning and applications. It provides a powerful knowledge base for the design of learning environments for the 21st century.

This downloadable booklet is a summary of The Nature of Learning, highlighting the core messages and principles for practitioners, leaders, advisors and policy makers. The principles outlined are guides to inform everyday experiences in current classrooms, as well as future educational programmes and systems.

The principles are:

  1. Learners at the centre
  2. The social nature of learning
  3. Emotions are integral to learning
  4. Recognising individual differences
  5. Stretching all students
  6. Assessment for learning
  7. Building horizontal connections

Check out this NZC Online blog on the 7 Principles of Learning.

And you can analyse how well your learning environment reflects what is known from current research using this chart, developed by Ellen Hauser and Bernadette Pearce, Sandhurst Catholic Education Office, Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Word 2007 icon. Seven learning principles chart (Word 2007 107 KB)

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"Black Box" articles – seminal articles on Assessment for Learning

Inside the Black Box
Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment. Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam. King's College London, 1998

Testing, Motivation and Learning 
Testing, Motivation and Learning: Assessment Reform Group, 2002

Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles

Assessment for Learning: 10 Principles, Assessment Reform Group, 2002

The Black Box Assessment for Learning Series, edited by Paul Black, Christine Harrison, Bethan Marshall, and Dylan Wiliam, King’s College London has been written to apply to specific curriculum areas.. These resources are not available online. Details of the titles available are listed on the Assessment Online Publications page.

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Dylan Wiliam videos on formative assessment

Online videos feature Dylan Wiliam, one of the gurus of assessment for learning, talking about a range of formative assessment aspects. In them he reviews the nature of formative assessment and how teachers can use it to gain better insights into student learning and achievement. Search online for ‘Dylan Wiliam formative assessment’.

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Dylan William’s five key strategies animated on YouTube

Michael Rystad summarises the Five Key Strategies for Embedded Formative Assessment as proposed by Dylan William.  The YouTube presentation is in an animated drawing/writing style, with a simple expansion of the ideas contained in each of the strategies.

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Keeping learning on track: Formative assessment and the regulation of learning D William
In this 2004 paper, Dylan Wiliam outlines some of the research that suggests that focusing on the use of day-to-day formative assessment is one of the most powerful ways of improving learning in the mathematics classroom.

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John Hattie: Visible Learning Part I and Visible Learning Part II

In these two You Tube presentations, John Hattie, at present director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute, discusses the principles and practices of effective teaching and learning, explored in detail in his influential book, Visible Learning (2008).

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Assessment: Feedback to promote student learning, Dorothy Spiller (2009)

This article from the Teaching Development Unit of the University of Waikato examines some of the issues associated with feedback on assessment and provides some guidelines for effective practice. .................................................................................................................................................................................................

Rick Stiggins, Assessment through the Student's Eyes

Rick Stiggins argues that our mission compels us to embrace a new vision of assessment that can tap the wellspring of confidence, motivation, and learning potential that resides within every student. To enable all students to experience the productive emotional dynamics of winning, we need to move from exclusive reliance on assessment that verifies learning to the use of assessment that supports learning — that is, assessment for learning.

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Watkins: Learners in the driving seat

Who is responsible for students’ learning? This 2009 article by Chris Watkins from the UK looks at how young people themselves can take the lead – and the excellent results that can follow. Although the assessment regime in the UK is very different from that in New Zealand, the principles of self-regulated learning apply in both contexts.

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PDF icon. Learning to love assessment - Carol Ann Tompkinson (PDF 2 MB)

From judging performance to guiding students to shaping instruction to informing learning, coming to grips with informative assessment has been an insightful journey for Carol Ann Tomlinson, one of the gurus of differentiated learning.

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Student Engagement in the Middle Years of Schooling (years 7–10): A Literature Review

This research report looks into the relationship between student engagement and student achievement, and considers what teachers can do to raise levels of student engagement within their year 7 to 10 classes and schools. This report features here because many of the 'answers' to the vexed question of student engagement focus on the practices of formative assessment.

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Using Classroom Data to give Systematic Feedback to Students to Improve Learning

This webpage provides a summary of how best to provide feedback to students, on the website of the American Psychological Society. Based largely on Dylan Wiliam’s work, it does not cover any new ground but reinforces the main ideas clearly.