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4 Key Factors for Fantastic Formative Assessment

Too many times the research is completely disconnected from the classroom. But in today’s show, we talk about some very practical issues for teachers. First of all, we talk about the characteristics that make effective formative assessment. This includes some important tips for adjusting your instruction based upon formative assessment. Secondly, we also discussed standards and why in most cases they don’t work. Today’s guest, Dr. Douglas Reeves, bridges the research with the everyday classroom in a helpful way.


Listen to this show on BAM Radio Network | iTunes

So, if you want to be a better teacher tomorrow, these tips and ideas are practical ways that will work to make you a better teacher. I especially love the way he says to start class.

Formative assessment and a better understanding of the role of standards will help us all improve. Of course, we’re going to have to ask ourselves hard questions and prioritize what’s really important. In my opinion, when you try to choose to do everything you end up doing nothing very well. And that is the case in most schools which are plagued with too many standards and too many things to do.

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As a teacher, it is our job to focus on what’s important and to move our students forward and help them progress. We can do that. I believe you’ll find today very empowering, encouraging, and practical. So, let’s get started!


Formative assessment options can save you time. GradeCam is a quick grading tool for formative AND summative assessment. You get instant feedback on what students know. With this tool, you print out bubble sheets, use your smartphone, to take a picture of your students’ quizzes, and GradeCam will grade the quizzes for you! You can to quickly collect and assess student learning in the moment and adjust your lessons in real-time. GradeCam also works with laptops, desktops, tablets and any device that has a camera connected to wifi. GradeCam can also quickly transfer all of the scores into a grade bookIf you visit Gradecam from this blog post, you can get a 60-day free trial. You can also listen to a bonus episode I recorded about the “Biggest Formative Assessment Mistake that People Make.”


  • Many of us feel over tested. But we’re under assessed. Formative assessment is about informing teaching and learning.

  • Most of what is happening is “uninformative assessment.” He defines what poor assessment looks like and what good assessment looks like.

  • Good Assessment should be: Fair, Accurate, Specific, Timely

  • If you could wave your magic wand and fix formative assessment – what would you do?

  • “We have too many standards. The idea that we can wave our magic wand and assess them all is ridiculous. I’m an advocate of power standards… we should prioritize and assess the half dozen or so that are the most important to get students to the next level.”

  • We discuss standards alignment and the illusion that is caused by having too many standards.

  • Dr. Reeves recommends fewer standards that are higher in value.

  • How teachers can work in a situation where they have too many standards. Doug gives some practical examples of what can help.

  • Good formative assessment helps me be a better teacher tomorrow. What would that look like?

  • You can just have 5-10 items at the beginning of class – trading papers or grade immediately and right then you know how to adjust the classroom instruction for the day. Short, precise, assessments that are focused and inform my teaching immediately.

  • It must get everyone involved so I can see what the whole class is. Doesn’t have to be graded. Kids are more likely to respond to feedback than grades.

  • What we should look at when we evaluate a teacher’s ability to assess and give feedback.

Learn More About Good Formative Assessment

Check the other episodes in this formative assessment series: Top Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Formative Assessment that Works (Episode 1), Top Tips for Fast Formative Assessment (Episode 2) and this episode.This 3-part series is designed to give every teacher something they can use in the classroom. I’ve found that formative assessment is an area that many teachers are lacking that can substantially improve classroom learning. We can do better than the old “show of hands” they were using in the 1980’s when I was in high school. Formative assessment took my classroom forward by leaps and bounds, so share these with your teachers.

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