Formative Assessment

Examples of formative assessment:

Clicker questions

Small group work

  • Can select one student from various groups to talk on behalf of the group
  • Reduces anxiety about participating (students being afraid to be wrong in front of the whole class) because one student is speaking for a group

Minute paper

  • students spend a minute or two to work on a specific task

  • Collect and discuss several representative answers (can do at beginning of next class)

Guiding Questions

  • Precede in-class demonstrations with questions which guide students to focus on the concepts and processes exemplified by the demonstration

Correcting Exams

  • Give students opportunity to correct their exams (note: exams are summative assessments, but feedback from exams can be used by students to repair their knowledge structure and improve their study strategies which can improve their subsequent learning)
  • An approach to help students learn from their mistakes in exams called “Exam wrappers” --> more information about them can be found in How Learning Works: 7 Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching


  • Asking students to summarize main points of a lecture (either at end of one, or beginning of the next one; can be done through clicker questions or free response, minute-paper type tasks)

Other examples

  • Asking students to periodically write about material or concepts they find difficult
  • Exercises to connect material learned in various chapters to overarching ideas
  • Other resources 

Criteria formative assessment fulfill in part:

  • They provide students with an understanding of the goals of the course because the activities that they engage in communicate instructor’s expectations (I expect that you are able to solve this problem, complete this task etc.)
  • They provide student with feedback on where their understanding is with relation to the course goals as communicated by the instructor
  • They provide the instructor with feedback on where the class is with relation to the course goals
  • They make students active in the learning process effectively reducing the amount of time students sit passively while receiving information
    • They are paying attention to what they are learning and getting quick feedback which helps them improve their understanding early (as opposed to after a test) 

These examples suggest an important lesson regarding formative assessment: Integrating significant use of formative assessment entails a close scrutiny of all aspects of an instructional design. Formative assessment is an integral part of instructional design!

For more information on formative assessment see: