Valuing formative assessment in the high school classroom

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University of New Brunswick


Despite a multitude of evidence that suggests formative assessment is valuable to both student and teacher learning, research indicates this practice has not yet become routine in the high school classroom culture. The traditional high school environment of teaching, testing and moving on is not supported by research, and is actually disputed by many (Kohn, 1999; Muncer, 2006). This report has been motivated by reputable and comprehensive research conducted by Brookhart (2011), Leahy, Shepard and Stiggins (2001, 2002, 2009), and Black and Wiliam (1998, 2011). Undeniably, though, it was the landmark article by Black and Wiliam, Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards through Classroom Assessment (1998) which identified the correlation between effective formative assessment and student achievement that motivated professional development in formative assessment for and of learning. In their research, Black and Wiliam (1998) point to the use of formative assessment in classroom practices as being essential to increasing achievement among students. In addition, formative assessment “. . .within the reach of all teachers, can contribute substantially to raising standards. . .” (p. 146). I was intrigued by the suggestion that all teachers have the ability to use formative assessment, and wanted to know more about how this would look in a secondary classroom, especially high school English Language Arts. The aim of this research project, Valuing Formative Assessment in the High School Classroom, does not include finding one definitive answer, but to initiate and/or expand the dialogue on formative assessment practices at the High School.