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Formative Assessment: Home


Formative Assessment

What is it?

The purpose of using formative assessments is to monitor student comprehension of new or existing instructional content while providing timely and specific feedback in an effort to improve learning outcomes. 


Educators collect evidence in real time that helps identify understanding on a topic. This information can be anonymously gathered or identifiable and is used to inform the instructional plan moving forward. 


Unlike summative assessments, formative assessments are assessments for learning. 

  • Low stakes, with low or no points attached
  • Typically take limited class time
  • Offer constructive feedback which can immediately improve student learning

Examples and Implementation

Assessment technique Description Benefits
Application Cards Following the introduction of new material or procedure, index cards are passed out and students write down at least one practical application for what they have just learned.
  • Students must link new information with prior knowledge.

  • Increased interest in the material as they consider how the new information will be applied in an authentic setting. 

  • Discuss responses in the current or next session, giving more attention to correct misconceptions or inaccurate information.

Muddiest Point Students are asked to respond to the prompt, "What was the muddiest point in (the lecture, the demonstration, the article, the instructional video, etc.)"?
  • Provides timely feedback on points of confusion.

  • Informs which content should be emphasized and how much time to spend on topics.

  • Students must self-assess their own understanding of the content and articulate what is unclear.

Polling Questions Open-ended or multiple-choice questions are presented to students to prompt thinking or reflection.
  • Polling questions can be used to check knowledge, prompt reflection, or ask opinions.

  • Asking polling questions can help students assess their own (mis)understanding of the topic and deepen metacognition.

  • Responses to polling questions can provide educators with helpful information about what topics need additional explaination.