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inFormative Assessment

inFormative Assessment
When It's Not About a Grade

Edited by:

September 2009 | 136 pages | Corwin

Use assessment as a powerful tool to inform instruction and learning!

With practical, informed assessment techniques, you can increase your instructional effectiveness and demonstrate improvements in student learning. This research-based book, part of the In A Nutshell series, provides a succinct yet substantive discussion about formative assessments and how they impact the teaching/learning cycle. The authors present results-oriented methods, offer invaluable tips, and examine three types of inFormative assessments:

  • Routine inFormative Assessments to weave into everyday instruction
  • Reflective inFormative Assessments to foster self-assessment for students and teachers
  • Rigorous inFormative Assessments to provide continuous tools that inform teaching practices and student learning

About the Authors
Opening Quote
Part I: Purpose/Goals
Part II: "A Suite of Assessments"
Part III: Background/Research
Part IV: Overview of the Book and Chapter Format
1. Routine Formative Assessments: All Day, Everyday-Flow

Scene of Scenario (for Reader's Theater Activity)

Define, Describe, and Give Real-World Examples



Lap Boards

Traffic Light Cards

Color-Coded Multiple Choice Cards

Tongue Depressors

Name Cards

Mr. Parnes' Questions

Mr. Pete's Questions


Questioning Procedures

Pose Question

Allow Wait Time

Choose a Respondent Using a Random Method

Provide Some "Save Face" Option

HOT Questions


Woven Questions

Rhetorical Questions

Hands Up Only to Ask a Question Policy

Cooperative Learning (Informal)





Wait Time

Equal Opportunity to Respond

Unpacking the Language of Standards/Tests/Instructions



2. Reflective Informative Assessments: Many Days-Conversations

Scene or Scenario (for Reader's Theater)

Define, Describe, and Give Real-World Examples



People Search

Human Graph

Rubrics/Checklists (Criteria in Kid-Friendly Terms)


Little Book of Reflective Tools

Step Book

Cooperative Learning Roles and Responsibilities

Peer Tutors


Traffic Light Indicators

Student Portfolios


Tear Share

Magic Book

Mrs. Potters' Questions

Ms. Poindexter's Questions


Range Finding Questions (Prior Knowledge)

Hinge Point Questions (During Instruction)

Rubric Development With the Class

Use of Benchmark Papers

Descriptive Feedback

Reflective Questions (Metacognition)

Peer Assessment (Peer Editing)

Cooperative Learning

Interactive Conversations

Teacher - Student/Student - Teacher

Student - Student

Student - Self

Email Buddies

Comments That Reference Criteria, Instead of Grades

"There Are _ Wrong. Find Which Ones."

Focused Marking (One Aspect of Element)

Grading: Omit Zeros, Omit Averages, Require Students to Do Missing Assignments



3. Rigorous Informative Assessments: Some Days - Philosophical Shift

Scene or Scenario (for Reader's Theater)

Define, Describe, and Give Real-World Examples


Performance Tasks

Performance Checklists

Performance Rubrics

Grading Practices

Informative Grading

Informative Grade Book

Gray Area About Grade Books

Standards-Based Grade Books

Color-Coded Grade Books

Electronic Grade Book

Electronic Test Creation Software





Performance Based

Tests, Test Questions, Test Analysis

Ungraded Practice Test

Developing Test Questions

Test Questions: Fat/Skinny (or Whale/Minnow) Questions

Test and Work Analysis: Examining Student Work

Summative Assessment as Informative Assessment

Philosophical Shift, Between Formative and Summative Assessments

How Can You Use a Summative Assessment in a Formative Manner?


Item Analysis

Robust Distractors


Application Activity


4. Closure
Attribution Theory (Dweck, 2007)

Tomlinson Summary Points

"Fogarty and Kerns provide far more than theory and rhetoric—they have effectively created a treasure trove of tools and ideas that every teacher can and should be using. This is a wonderful resource for mentors, instructional coaches, administrators, and professional development trainers."

Nancy A. Farrell, Staff Development Trainer
Loudoun County Public Schools, Ashburn, VA

"Provides new and veteran educators with clear descriptions of assessment methods and offers a rich array of instructional strategies that can be implemented immediately."

Mary Ellen Kotz, Education Associate for Educator Mentoring and Induction
Delaware Department of Education

"Promotes the kind of reflective practice that energizes teaching, leading, and learning for all. This book is an important resource for professional learning communities dedicated to 1) assessment of students and their achievement, 2) collaborative teams focused on improved teaching and learning, and 3) continuous improvement."

Valerie Hastings Gregory, Assistant Director of Professional Development
Chesterfield County Public Schools, VA

I find this book to be very approachable for my early education students. We have used it in our assessment course this semester and I plan to continue to use it -- although I do want to supplement with another text/trade book.

Deborah Secord
Teacher Education Dept, Dickinson State University
October 21, 2020
Key features

  • A research-based, "at-a-glance" guide written in a conversational tone with practical ideas and results-oriented strategies
  • Organized around 3 levels of assessments: Routine, Reflective, and Rigorous
  • Each chapter follows the same format and includes:
    • Teachings: definitions, examples, descriptions and explanations
    • Tools: tried-and-true, hands-on manipulatives for promoting assessment processes
    • Techniques: methods for using assessment to inform instructional decisions
    • Tasks: practical applications
    • Tips: cues from experts about what, when, and how to use the information successfully
  • Each chapter features its own spectrum of formative assessment tools and techniques to help teachers assess student work and academic progress in an ongoing, continuous, and consistent manner
  • The closure discussion is focused on the overriding concept that informative assessment celebrates student success and its relationship to student attitudes and confidence

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

For instructors

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