The Top Formative Assessment Strategies for Students’ Success

Dec 4, 2018 | Ed-Tech, Guest blogger

Every teacher knows that understanding is the key to good knowledge. However, teachers have to cover so much material during classes that it’s hard to ensure that your students get valuable knowledge by just lecturing and occasionally doing some exercises for practice.

That’s when the formative assessment comes to the rescue. According to EdGlossary, a formative assessment refers to a wide range of methods that teachers use for in-process evaluation of the progress that students have achieved after completing a certain set of milestones. Formative assessment is opposed to summative assessment, which is used to evaluate a student’s progress at the conclusion of the course.

Formative assessment is considered to be an integral part of effective learning. Unlike summative assessment, which is considered to be separate from the process of instruction, formative assessment is an inalienable part of it, necessary to check the progress of instruction.

What are the most effective formative assessment strategies to help students achieve success?

Strategic Questioning

The most effective strategy in instruction is having your students ask as many questions as possible and question everything they’ve learned. This formative assessment approach is called strategic questioning and is considered one of the most effective methods to penetrate a certain topic.

Fran Peavy, the author of the Strategic Questioning Manual, claimed that this strategy is aimed at facilitating dynamic listening and structured thinking, that’s why it can potentially help students structure their knowledge of a certain topic.

The process of strategic questioning consists of two levels:

Level 1: Describing the issue

Depending on the problem you want your students to focus on, you can ask the following types of questions:

  • Analysis question: aimed at identifying the relationship of one notion to the other;
  • Observation question: asking students about their thoughts about a certain situation after they’ve observed it;
  • Focus question: gathering the information that students already know to analyze the situation (a great way to check their knowledge);
  • Feeling question: asking students how they feel about a certain issue and how it affects their feelings.

Level 2: Penetrating the Subject

After asking a more general question, it’s time to dive deeper into the subject by considering the following:

  • Ask a change question: what is required to make the situation more ideal and which changes are required to achieve this ideal.
  • Consider possible alternatives: are there any other solutions to the problem? Do they fit the situation better or worse?
  • Think over the obstacles: what are the possible issues you can come across when implementing each of possible solutions?
  • Analyze the consequences: what will be the effects of implementing a certain solution?

Strategic questioning is a great way to develop analytical thinking, which will later benefit your students when writing research papers and analytical essays. And, in general, strategic questioning is a great way to train research skills, which will later come in handy in the future career.

Student Work Analysis

Teachers can learn a great deal from the works students complete during the course. Interim tests, quick quizzes, and other assessments can help teachers identify the following:

  • existing gaps between the knowledge the students have collected and the whole scope of information according to the plan of instruction;
  • possible modifications teachers have to include in instruction to make sure that students got the whole scope of necessary information.

Student work analysis is a great way for the teachers to understand whether their instruction plans work towards achieving a certain goal. Analyzing works also helps teachers understand their students better and identify, which approaches and methods of instructions work better for them.

It’s better for teachers to analyze works together with students. This way they will work together towards achieving a certain goal. For instance, if students have written a short essay, it’s useful to analyze them together so that teachers could answer possible questions right away.

However, with the purpose of creating a plan of instruction, teachers also need to work on their own to put together the general analysis of student performance. Rhode Island Department of Education has created Student Work Analysis Protocol to help teachers break their analysis in sections and create better instruction plans. It helps teachers see which percentage of the class scored higher or lower on the recent test and identify the reasons why some students underperform on their tests.

Think-Pair-Share Strategy

Think-Pair-Share (TPS) strategy is one of the easiest formative assessment methods teachers can use during instruction. It’s a collaborative learning strategy that brings students together to solve a certain problem.

The idea of TPS is the following: a teacher asks students a question and students are required to write down the answers (a “think” part). Then students discuss their ideas in pairs (a “pair” part), during which they can add some new ideas to their previous answers. And then students are required to share the ideas they’ve discussed with their partners with the whole group.

Benefits of TPS:

  • engages students who previously were not interested in the discipline;
  • lets a teacher understand the current level of knowledge;
  • unites the entire class to work together on solving the problem;
  • improves communication with peers.

A research by BGSU has shown that TPS strategy can help students become more confident and engage them in participating in classroom activities more. This strategy requires little involvement from the teachers, which can help them observe and analyze the knowledge their students have already acquired.

Incorporate Formative Assessment in Your Instruction

Formative assessment strategies make instruction more dynamic and engaging. By including these top three formative assessment strategies you’ll be able to analyze the performance of your students and make them more interested in your discipline.

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Maria Fincher


Marie Fincher is a teacher, writer, photographer, and adventurer with a passion for helping children and young people reach their full potential. She blogs at Trust My Paper, where she shares insights into creating the perfect research paper, data science, and related topics.