Formative AssessmentI'm interested in hearing if/how other english teachers are using formative assessment in their classrooms.

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drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best form of formative assessment is what is traditionally known as "homework." However, we all know that students are notorious for copying, cheating, downloading, and/or just not doing it. In desperation, I consulted with my students 15 years ago and asked them what would it take to get them to do it.

Their responses were illuminating. Several students wanted to be able to get the assignments far in advance so they could work ahead when they had ball games. (Like college syllabus assignments.) Others wanted to be able to "not count" homework if they did poorly, so they weren't penalized for making an honest effort and learning that they needed more work. Others felt that they should only receive credit for homework done, not penalties for homework not done. Still others wanted the option to do it if they wanted, or not.

The policy I crafted and used for the next 10 years was that homework was optional. If you did it and scored at least an 80, then you earned points that could be banked and converted at the end of the semester if needed to raise your grade. Cutting off the credit at 80 removed the incentive to cheat to get a higher score. Making it optional also made cheating less attractive. There was no penalty for choosing not to do it, but no "extra credit" available if your end-of semester grade wasn't good.

I was astonished at the number of students who started doing their homework. I was also pleased at the students who began to view homework as a gauge of whether they needed to do more homework or less.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator


Unless they do it in your classroom, while you are watching them, it is impossible to know if they are really "doing the work." What my system did was remove the incentives for cheating and copying as much as is possible.

It's essential to develop a culture of respect in your classroom, which includes students showing respect for the activities you have set up. Cheating and copying are disrespectful behaviors. If there's no incentive to do it, and no pressure to do homework because of zeroes and penalties if you don't do it, then it makes a huge difference.

Part of the issue is the teacher's thought process. If we view homework as something that everyone "ought" to do, even if they can score As and Bs on tests and projects without, why on earth do they need to do it? Only those kids who really need the support and extra work should be doing it.

If you have a student who chooses not to do the homework but whose grades are suffering, there's nothing to prevent you from contact the parents and letting them know that if the student completes homework and scores at least 80, it will boost the final grade. Parents will then start exerting some pressure, at least some of them will.

But I promise you this: if you begin administering homework as a formative assessment that can only help a student's grade, and don't punish them if they don't do it, you will see a transformation in most of your students' attitudes toward homework.


drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It depends on the type of assignments as well. If you assign rote homework that is easily copied, then you're asking for it, in my opinion. I also structured many assignments based on a student's score on a diagnostic pretest--they could take the pretest, and then only do the assignments on areas where the pretest indicated they needed work. They loved this, because it was individualized. I did this for things like writing mechanics and important points of grammar.

All I can tell you is, it transformed my classroom. Parents would tell me in conferences, "He says you never assign homework, but he's always working on English!" It really made a difference, and my students' standardized scores on the state tests were strong evidence of the success of the program.

drmonica eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In my classroom, homework is formative, rather than summative. Major projects and formal assessments (tests and papers) are summative. I rarely had students score 100 on all major summative assessments, but it was certainly possible to earn an A or a B overall without doing homework. Very few students chose not to do anything; most of them would use diagnostic preassessments to determine if they needed to do homework to be able to meet specific standards.

mamalionamanda | Student

Life journey is an contiurely learning process, please demestrate a new chapter using formative assesments.

epollock | Student

Most homework is summative, it merely adds points to grades. And, I was wondering, if homework only helps students, is it possible to obtain a 100 if the student does no homework?

epollock | Student


I don't see why a student would do it if there is no detrimental effect. I think it would increase the level of cheating; if one student does it, then let the others copy the paper. 

epollock | Student


How do you know students are doing the work? I think homework is summative work that earns grades or points. And, if it is optional, students can copy from someone else, or, if they don't want to copy, they probably won't do it.

epollock | Student

Formative assessment--as opposed to summative assessment which awards grades based on tests, quizzes, mid-terms, final exams, etc.-- allows for discovering how the instructional process is going. It is heavily based on feedback between teacher and student so that the process can evolve for maximum advancement.

I use the following formative assessment techniques:

1) Goal setting--This changes with each student and with each assignment.  Not only are their learning objectives, but also goals in which the student places emphasis on and allows students to have different goals for each assignment.  This helps students receive relevancy from each assignment and places a social context on the matter being learned.

2) Observations--I was never a big fan of observing until I started to record how students learned and by improving their learning styles, I have found that their learning improves.

3) Self-assessment--Is vital for students to discover what they value in what they learn.  They can place emphasis on those skills that they think will benefit more for their future. Peer review also goes hand-in-hand with self reflecting as peers and friends have a large amount of influence. Negative influence has to be watched for but with proper guidance, this can be mitigated.

4) Student record keeping--I allow stduents to record grades, on a rotating basis, and I find that this helps students watch out for one another and promotes a more cooperatiuve learning environment rather than a competitive one.

All in all, I find summative assessment very useful and effective in promoting student learning and achievement.  While it tends to be more subjective, it is definitely one of the tools that all teachers should utilize.