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Teachers' Formative Assessment Abilities and Their Relationship to Student Learning: Findings from a Four-Year Intervention Study

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ISAIJLS Volume 44, Number 3, ISSN 0020-4277


The teaching practices of recognizing and responding to students' ideas during instruction are often called formative assessment, and can be conceptualized by four abilities: designing formative assessment tasks, asking questions to elicit student thinking, interpreting student ideas, and providing feedback that moves student thinking forward. While these practices have been linked to positive learning outcomes for students, designing and enacting formative assessment tasks in science classrooms presents instructional challenges for teachers. This paper reports on the results of a long-term study of high school biology teachers who participated in a 3 year professional development program, called the Formative Assessment Design Cycle (FADC), which guided them to iteratively design, enact, and reflect upon formative assessments for natural selection in school-based teacher learning communities. Nine teachers participated for three academic years; sources of data included teachers' interpreting of student ideas in line with a learning progression, the formative assessment tasks they designed each year of the study, videotaped classroom enactment of those tasks, and pre-post test student achievement from the Baseline and final year of the study. Results indicate that, on average, teachers increased on all abilities during the study and changes were statistically significant for interpreting students ideas, eliciting questions, and feedback. HLM models showed that while only the quality of feedback was a significant predictor at Baseline, it was teachers' task design and interpretation of ideas in Year 3. These results suggest the efficacy of the FADC in supporting teachers' formative assessment abilities. Findings are interpreted in light of professional development and formative assessment literatures.


Furtak, E.M., Kiemer, K., Circi, R.K., Swanson, R., de León, V., Morrison, D. & Heredia, S.C. (2016). Teachers' Formative Assessment Abilities and Their Relationship to Student Learning: Findings from a Four-Year Intervention Study. Instructional Science: An International Journal of the Learning Sciences, 44(3), 267-291. Retrieved September 25, 2023 from .

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