A planned process. Formative assessment involves a series of carefully considered, distinguishable acts on the part of teachers or students or both. Some of those acts involve educational assessments, but the assessments play a role in the process—they are not the process itself. An educator who refers to " a formative test" has not quite grasped the concept, because there's no such thing. There are tests that can be used as part of the multistep, formative assessment process, but each of those tests is only a part of the process.
Effective descriptive feedback focuses on the intended learning, identifies specific strengths, points to areas needing improvement, suggests a route of action students can take to close the gap between where they are now and where they need to be, takes into account the amount of corrective feedback the learner can act on at one time, and models the kind of thinking students will engage in when they self-assess. These are a few examples of descriptive feedback:
In their review of the literature on formative assessment, Paul Black and Dylan Wiliam argue that it is not possible to introduce formative assessments into a traditionally formatted classroom. 6 The teacher in a classroom that uses formative assessment must give up some control and encourage students to participate in developing learning goals and outcomes. Black and Wiliam also contend that formative assessment is effective in virtually all educational settings: content areas, knowledge and skill types, and levels of education.