Quizzes as Formative Assessment

Author: Louise Raw

Posted: 31 May 2022

Estimated time to read: 5 mins

As a teacher, you know how important it is to have a clear plan in place for assessing pupils’ performance. Formative assessment, in particular, plays a key role in gauging pupils’ understanding and making sure they’re on the right track.  

What Is a Formative Assessment?

A formative assessment is a regular, informal assessment that instructors can use to evaluate pupils’ level of understanding and inform their teaching strategy.

Formative assessments help them to gather information to improve instruction and pupil comprehension in the moment. They also provide teachers with opportunities to regularly monitor pupils’ learning and offer feedback — both positive and constructive.

A formative assessment typically follows this framework:

  • The teacher establishes standards 
  • The teacher uses the standards to collect and assess data regarding pupils’ understanding and performance
  • The teacher determines whether or not pupils are meeting current standards and guidelines
  • The teacher shares detailed feedback with pupils
  • The pupils use the comments from their teacher to determine what they should focus on moving forward

It’s important to note, too, that formative assessments should ideally take place regularly — daily is best, though during every subject lesson may be more realistic. The more data instructors can collect regarding student understanding, the easier it is to determine if they’re moving in the right direction or need to make changes to teaching methods.


Formative Assessment Examples

Quizzes are a common example of formative assessment. These quizzes can be quite short (sometimes as little as 1-3 questions) and are informal (they may not even be graded at all).

Instructors can also ask students to produce summaries (written or verbal) as formative assessments. Even something as simple as a classroom poll — asking everyone who understands a concept to raise their hand before moving on — can be helpful.


Formative Assessments vs Summative Assessments

Teachers should use both formative assessments and summative assessments to evaluate pupil performance and make sure they’re progressing appropriately.

The following are some key differences between formative assessments and summative assessments:

  • Formative assessments evaluate learning while it’s happening
  • Summative assessments typically take place at the end of a term, learning unit, etc.
  • Formative assessments typically have lower stakes and may not be graded
  • Summative assessments typically have higher stakes and are usually graded

 Formative assessments are also used to inform and improve teachers’ instruction while they’re teaching. They can increase pupil awareness regarding how they learn, too, which encourages autonomy and independence in the classroom.


Why Is Formative Assessment Effective in the Classroom?

Tests at the end of a term or quizzes after completing a chapter aren’t sufficient when it comes to evaluating pupils’ understanding and teachers’ approach to delivering information. The following are some specific benefits that come from incorporating formative assessments alongside summative assessments:

Keep Learning Goals in Mind
When you use formative assessments to keep an eye on pupils’ progress, it’s easier to keep their learning goals in mind. This makes it easier for you to catch misunderstandings and clear them up early on, rather than waiting until pupils are completely off track and at risk of failing an exam.

Better Understand Student Needs
When you catch misunderstandings early, you also gain more insight into your students’ needs. This, in turn, helps you to revise your teaching style and change your delivery so that your students can get more out of your lessons.

Increased Pupil Motivation
Many pupils find regular quizzes and other types of formative assessment to be motivating. When they can see how they’re doing and that they’re understanding your lessons, it’s easier for them to stay engaged and focused in class - knowing that each lesson they are progressing.

Improved Feedback
The more you know about your pupils’ understanding and lesson comprehension, the easier it is to provide clear feedback. When you provide clear feedback, pupils can continue making progress and getting the most out of their time in school.

Personalised Learning Experiences and Data-Driven Decisions
Quizzes and other formative assessments allow you to gather valuable data. This is the case even if they’re not formally scored or factored into pupils’ final grades.

This data helps you create more personalised learning experiences for your pupils. For example, if you find that a lot of pupils aren’t responding to a particular teaching approach, you can adjust your lessons so they better align with a specific learning style.

Increased Self-Regulation

Regular formative assessments give students frequent opportunities to review and make corrections to their own work. This provides them with opportunities to take responsibility for their learning. It also encourages them to be more independent and autonomous thinkers.
Improved Learning Outcomes
All of these benefits can help you to see better learning outcomes and improved classroom performance — as well as improved performance on summative assessments like end-of-term exams.

When you use regular formative assessments, you’ll gain valuable insight into your pupils and can set them up for more long-term success.


Bringing Formative Assessment into the Classroom

As you can see, there are lots of reasons to incorporate regular formative assessments into your teaching strategy. If you’re not sure how to do so, though, a good starting point is to use quizzes as formative assessment.

Quizzes are brief, simple, and have low stakes. This is especially true compared to summative assessment methods like end-of-term or end-of-unit exams.

Quizzes won’t produce the same level of anxiety as exams. However, they still provide instructors with valuable data that they can use to inform their teaching decisions and alter their delivery to offer a clearer, more personalised message to their pupils.


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