When it comes to pupil attainment, tests and exams are the most accepted way of measuring progress. These formal tests, known as summative assessments, are integral to the education system. They are highly visible, tracked and measured over a set period of time.
Most formative assessment, meanwhile, is informal, quickly designed, and used in real-time circumstances. This differs to summative assessment which is well organised, scored, and often standardised to measure individual student performance.
This year, our State of Technology in Education report has shown that raising attainment, as well as closing the attainment gap, are top of schools’ agendas this academic year. Could real-time, formative assessment help more schools achieve these goals?
Attainment is a top goal
Every year we track senior leaders’ strategic goals and educational priorities. This year, our survey respondents identified their school’s priorities for the coming year as:
- Attainment (63.8%, up 16%)
- Reducing the attainment gap (46%, up 13%)
- New pedagogical techniques (31%, up 3%)
What’s more, when SLT members are outlining their full-year strategies, they have confirmed that pupils’ needs are the highest influencing factor (59.9%), followed by results and attainment (50%).
Attainment, therefore, is increasingly important for schools. Whilst summative assessment is the given way of tracking these results, there’s evidence to suggest that real-time assessment could have a greater impact.
Does formative assessment help?
According to the research by Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), using real-time assessment processes to identify their pupils’ strengths and weaknesses — and adapting teaching methods to this knowledge — has shown to boost students’ progress.
Real-time assessment (such as class polls, end of lesson surveys and anonymous quizzes) have been shown to be incredibly effective in raising student attainment, increasing positive student outcomes, and improving their ability to learn new topics.
How are schools using formative assessment?
Evidence from the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests that high-quality, regular feedback can be one of the most cost-effective ways of boosting pupil attainment. This is a key message at a time of reduced school budgets.
So, how are schools implementing a real-time assessment environment?
Firstly, educators are changing the learning culture in their classrooms. They are putting more emphasis on developing a ‘growth mindset’ by encouraging students to make errors without recourse. Students can then learn from their mistakes and develop a sense of self-confidence in the classroom.
Also, with teachers working with students from different backgrounds, cultural barriers are being broken down, motivating more pupils to learn. With real-time assessment, educators can interact frequently with individuals or small groups, involving them in the assessment process, even providing them with tools to judge the quality of their own work.
Edtech enables more real-time assessment
Whilst many schools already agree with the benefits of a formative assessment strategy, they can be challenging to implement. Adapting existing resources and tools to a real-time environment is difficult when the goal is to facilitate a more anonymous approach.
Interactive technology, however, can provide a ‘safe’ learning environment. Unlike the traditional hands up approach, teachers can see live results while other pupils cannot. This boosts the confidence of students who are sensitive of their peers’ opinions. These technologies allow teachers to freeze or blank a screen, tracking assessment on the go.
Edtech still provides an assessment opportunity
When gathering feedback for our State of Technology in Education report, we found out that online assessments, as well as online content and resources, are likely to see the biggest growth over the next few years.
Technology already plays a key role in assessment practices, with 52% of teachers tracking assessment purely online, and over 71% partly online. Yet this largely is to process and store summative results, rather than real-time assessment feedback.
Whilst only 31% of teachers track formative assessment wholly online, over 65% use digital tools in some part.
So, if attainment is high on your school’s agenda for the coming academic year, formative assessment through technology could be the answer. With interactive and efficient formative assessment opportunities, such as those available with the ActivPanel, pupils’ assessment data can be seamlessly gathered, stored and accessed when needed. In turn, a greater number of pupils are empowered to work to their strengths. The end result? More motivated pupils, better results and a more successful school.