The Positive Impact of Formative Assessment on Student Learning

The PlanWise tool is aligned with the formative assessment definition from the CCSSO, Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers (FAST) State Collaborative on Assessment and Student Standards (SCASS) definition (CCSSO, 2018).

This definition emphasizes formative assessment as a process of collecting evidence of student learning to inform next steps in teaching and learning. It stresses that the process:

  • occurs while students and teachers are engaged in a learning activity
  • occurs within and between class periods as part of a larger instructional sequence
  • includes both students and teachers

For more information, view the FAST SCASS definition of formative assessment.

Formative assessment is a planned, ongoing process used by all students and teachers to elicit and use evidence of student learning to improve outcomes and support students to become self-directed learners. Effective implementation requires students and teachers to integrate and embed formative practices in a collaborative, respectful classroom environment.

Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), 2018.1

Common Formative Assessment Practices

Research shows that effective use of the formative assessment process requires students and teachers to integrate and embed the following practices in a collaborative and respectful classroom environment:

  • clarifying learning goals and success criteria within a broader progression of learning
  • eliciting and analyzing evidence of student thinking
  • engaging in self-assessment and peer feedback
  • providing actionable feedback
  • using evidence and feedback to move learning forward by adjusting learning strategies, goals or next instructional steps

Supported by Research

Research has shown that formative assessment can have a significant impact on student learning when used consistently and systematically. Recent metanalyses of 138 factors found that both formative assessment and feedback are in the top 10 strategies that have the greatest impact on student learning outcomes. Furthermore, formative assessment has the potential to improve learning for transfer and 21st-century skills.

Learn more about the research supporting best practices in formative assessment.

R&D Connections Issue 19: Formative Assessment — Supporting Students' Learning (PDF)

An overview of various aspects of formative assessment research at ETS.

Using Diagnostic Classroom Assessment: One Question at a Time (PDF)

A brief discussion of formative assessment and the use of diagnostic items in teachers' daily practice as a specific formative assessment tool.

Tight but Loose: Scaling Up Teacher Professional Development in Diverse Contexts (PDF)

A framework for formative assessment and the importance of holding "tight" to the central tenants of the framework while being “loose” about how that framework is implemented in various contexts.

ETS K–12 Assessment Theory of Action (PDF)

A look at how the ETS K–12 Assessment components are intended to improve teaching and learning when used in combination with professional supports in a sustained manner.

Teacher Professional Development Focused on Formative Assessment: Changing Teachers, Changing Schools (PDF)

An approach to improving learning and teaching that combines research on formative assessment and teacher learning communities.

PlanWise Theory of Action (PDF)

An illustration of how the PlanWise tool is intended to improve student learning by helping teachers incorporate formative assessment practices into their lesson plans. Includes research support for those claims.

Supporting Teacher Assessment Literacy: A Proposed Sequence of Learning, TCR article (PDF)

A proposal for sequencing teacher professional learning opportunities to develop a well-rounded understanding of assessment practices and processes.

How the PlanWise Tool Can Help

The PlanWise tool is a Chrome Extension for Google Docs that improves formative assessment practices and provides professional learning development for teachers. Our goal is to meet teachers where they already are — right in their lesson plans. The Planwise tool:

  • eliminates the need to search the internet for formative assessment practices and strategies while planning lessons by bringing them right to teachers
  • offers an opportunity to learn about targeted practices and strategies that teachers can choose to include in their lesson plans and implement in a lesson whenever they're ready

Find out more about how the PlanWise tool can support implementation and regular use of formative assessment practices.

How It Works

1 Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). (2018). Revising the definition of formative assessment. Washington, DC: Author.