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Formative Assessments

About Formative Assessments...

Formative assessments are traditionally thought of as non-graded activities that give the teacher a sense of how students are taking up the material presented in class. In the model-based classroom, you may find that all kinds of formative assessments are already incorporated into the work of the classroom. Students may, for example, work in groups to generate some initial ideas about the phenomenon at hand. Having them record ideas on whiteboards can provide information about how student groups are able to use the ideas you've covered in class. Other tools, including those in the Teacher Toolkit on the MBER Essentials page, are designed to make student thinking visible. Any time you can see or hear what students are thinking, you've created an opportunity for formative assessment.

For example, the  "Card Sort" activity is described as follows:
"Students work in small groups to categorize a set of cards with pictures or words on them according to specified criteria. As they sort the cards they discuss their reasons for placing each card in a designated group. Teacher circulates and notes student thinking and what ideas may be problematic. When complete, the result of the card sort provides the basis for whole group discussion."

Formative assessment need not be grade-less!
Using formative assessment to generate either participation points or evaluative points can be a useful way to more fully characterize student performance. In sense-making classrooms, we'd like grades to reflect not only mastery of content but also mastery of practice. Though some summative prompts will be able to assess the ability to ask questions or argue from evidence well, others may fall short. Take advantage of opportunities to capture student engagement in scientific practice and translate it to a grade.

There are lots of ideas regarding how to use formative assessment, whether graded for points or not, in the materials listed on the Assessments page.