Formative Assessment Instruments

Formative assessment is the use of several tools for ongoing evaluation throughout the teaching and learning process. Formative assessment allows teachers to check student learning while encouraging students to monitor their own performance and growth, reflect on their progress and become conscious of the learning process. The key component of formative assessment is clear and descriptive teacher feedback that enables self-monitored learning.


Teachers use rubrics to evaluate and grade student work. The rubric outlines criteria for the aspects of a project that contribute to the overall grade. The rubric functions as a checklist for students, as they review their assignments, such as an essay, to ensure they are meeting the teacher’s requirements. Rubrics also allow students to reflect on their work with the confidence of knowing the teacher’s precise expectations. Rubrics enable teachers to provide detailed feedback by grading the assignment in sections that define student strengths and weaknesses, rather than providing a generic grade based on the project as a whole. For example, students will receive a grade for content in addition to a separate grade for grammar and punctuation.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers allow students to observe information in different formats. For example, “compare and contrast” or “cause and effect” charts organize information visually. Using a graphic organizer, a teacher can see through a broad scope what prior knowledge students have on a particular topic and check what they are learning and retaining in class. For students, the graphic organizer challenges them to review, organize and expand what they already know. Graphic organizers also give teachers a chance to see where students need to improve prior to a formal assessment such as a final exam or standardized test. Teachers often use graphic organizers in group settings where students discuss and exchange information.

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The portfolio is a collection of a student’s work that illustrates his growth as a learner and gives a view of his progress. Portfolios allow teachers to contemplate not only student learning, but also the effectiveness of teacher feedback. As a whole, the collection in a portfolio demonstrates the student’s ability to establish and reach goals, overcome learning obstacles, and showcase his strengths. Teachers use portfolios with rubrics and in collaborative learning environments where they encourage both self and peer assessment.