Formative Assessment Ideas

Active Learning can be an excellent resource for informal formative assessment (consider the Knute Broady Collection's Active Learning page). In addition to more traditional examples, as it allows students to engage with concepts. Observing student cognitive processes will allow you to see the gaps and successes of each unit (Holmes 2018). Included are other more traditional variations as well to demonstrate the different ways in which formative assessment can appear in the classroom.

Peer Review Techniques (Patchan and Schunn 2015):

  • Peer review is a technique that offers help to students in a multitude of ways. Some examples include - increasing critical thought and analysis, thereby making them better and more critical writers; helping students practice writing for an audience instead of writing for a grade given by a professor; providing the opportunity to test what works best for them without the fear of failure while practicing how to provide helpful, constructive feedback which will help them critique their own work in the future.
  • From an instructor's perspective, peer review is a good technique to help lessen the workload from a writing-intensive course.
  • Before the semester begins, look at your curriculum for your course and figure out where peer review could fit in. When should peer review occur in your course?
  • Designing a peer review worksheet before the beginning of the semester can help guide students during the peer review process by showing them what to look for and what needs their attention. Here is a sample peer review sheet from Washington University in St. Louis.
  • Before implementing peer review, be sure to identify the desired learning outcomes from the process as well as what skills do students need to successfully peer review? It's advised that before the semester begins you decide what kind of comments you want to see during the peer review process and if you will be grading student contributions
  • By looking at potential gaps in student knowledge, you can address exactly what you would expect from quality peer review in its introduction to the class.
  • Mindset can be everything. When introducing peer review to your class, it can be helpful to define the opportunities presented to them through this process and what their role is as a peer-reviewer. What does that responsibility look like?
  • Consider introducing peer review through a "dry run" in class. This could be a good time to have students practice filling out your peer review guide sheet and give tips about what kinds of comments are helpful.
  • If you plan on running more than one peer review throughout the course of the semester, it's advised the number of students per peer review group remains consistent to avoid confusion.
  • Remind students to arrive at their peer review with a copy of their own paper! Students can often overlook this and take less efficient notes while being peer-reviewed.
  • During peer review, try listening in on students' conversations to see what they are learning from each other.
  • For both the instructor and the student, the most important part of peer review is continuous feedback. Students are constantly getting feedback from each other and it's a good idea to insert yourself in that feedback loop as well.
  • Peer review is not easy, but it can be an incredibly useful tool that will help students from your course moving forward.

Student Presentations:

  • Student presentations can be used as either formative or summative forms of assessment. In the formative realm, shifting the focus of a class period from your lecture to a student presentation allows the presenter to show what they have researched while informing the rest of the class. This also allows questions or points you may not have considered to arise during class. Summative presentations are typically used to expand upon something already covered in class and is assigned later in the semester, much like a summative paper.
  • Presentations are similar to papers regarding how they assess the student, although they allow more flexibility with the creativity the student can put in.
  • Decide early on if you want the student to present alone or in a group. If they are alone, their result may be more akin to that of a paper assignment as you are only observing their work. If you assign groups or have them pick their own, you can also observe how they work together as well as factoring in peer review as the project unfolds.
  • Like the paper, be clear about grading requirements. A rubric, checklist, or guidelines can help set the bar for the project. Some things to consider are, "What do I want my students to get out of this?" and "How can a project help achieve this goal?"
  • Consider returning the grade sheet, or at least explaining the grade, to the student after the project is complete. This is a useful tool for future improvement, even if they got a good score.

Database of formative assessment techniques

Angelo and Cross (1993) collected 50 specific formative assessment techniques in their book, "Classroom assessment techniques: a handbook for college teachers." In the book, techniques are organized by sections, such as "analysis and critical thinking" as well as clusters like "higher-order thinking skills."  This approach helps instructors make sure they are using a technique that has been tested to measure what they want to assess. You may browse these techniques and to learn more about a specific technique or implement it in a classroom, contact an instructional designer for your college. 

Angelo, T.A. and Cross, K.P. (1993). "Classroom assessment techniques: a handbook for college teachers." San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Holmes, Naomi. (2018). "Engaging with Assessment: Increasing Student Engagement through Continuous Assessment" Active Learning in Higher Education, 19, 23-24.

Patchan, M.M., and Schunn, C.D. (2015). "Understanding the Benefits of Providing Peer Feedback: How Students Respond to Peers' Texts of Varying Quality.Instructional Science, 43, 591-614.

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