Common educational vocabulary Formative Assessment

I think that every six months or so every school district, state education, and educational publication should publish its current definition of all educational terms. I  have looked at four different educators’ definitions of formative assessment and those definitions differ drastically.  One educator feels that formative assessment focuses on teacher instruction.  Another feels that it focuses on the assessments that are given periodically. The third concentrates on formative assessment as the weekly quizzes that a teacher gives.  The fourth sees formative assessment as the feedback that teachers give students. Since these educators do not define formative assessment in the same way, they get confused when each other talks. They do not have the same language.  Therefore, they  do not work together.

When will teachers accept a common vocabulary for the good of all teachers?  When will educators become a community of learners instead of educators on different pages? Let’s work together to help improve student learning!

Use a district wide Wiki to share  and develop common definitions and provide examples of that definition. Have educators build on the components of that definition.

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1 Response to “Common educational vocabulary Formative Assessment”


  1. 1 Dennis Paquette July 25, 2008 at 5:30 am

    I heard an interesting analogy relating formative and summative assessment to the medical field. Formative assessment gives teachers a basic feel for student’s understanding of one or two essential questions in a lesson being presented. The assessment guides the teacher’s next step, weather to move on to the next thing, or to spend more time on a particular aspect of the lesson that didn’t test well. Similarly, a physical gives a doctor a basic feel for our health. It helps them determine the next step, weather to move on to the next thing or spend more time on a particular aspect that didn’t test well. Summative assessment is a complete assessment of the pig picture. It shows how well students grasped each concept. Since it is assessing large concepts that tie many lessons together, it is too late to go back and re-teach a small part of an earlier lesson. This is why the summative assessment is primarily an assessment of the teacher or the curriculum. It may show that students grasped the lessons, but didn’t tie the lessons together to get the big picture. This would guide the teacher to focus on that aspect in the next class. Summative assessment may even show students are getting confused somewhere in the series of lessons suggesting the need for more formative assessments for the next class. In the medical field a summative assessment is similar to an autopsy. It is a complete assessment of the big picture. It gives the doctor a lot of information on what they should look for when working with other patients in the future, but it won’t do the patient a whole lot of good.


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