Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Formative Assessment: A Systematic and Artistic Process of Instruction for Supporting School and Lifelong Learning

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Education

Formative Assessment: A Systematic and Artistic Process of Instruction for Supporting School and Lifelong Learning

Article excerpt


Formative Assessment: A Quiet Revolution in a Rapidly Evolving Century

In today's world, adaptability, creativity and innovativeness appear to be preconditions for organizations and individuals to thrive ... we need people who aren't focused only on payoffs but do the best they can to learn, adapt, improve ... (Benkler, 2011, p. 85)

The theme of lifelong learning, is an issue of global interest paralleled by a flourishing interest in formative assessment. Hutchinson and Hayward (2005) describe this trend as a "quiet revolution," one which has across time brought about the transformation of education by embedding "the theory of formative assessment" (Black & Wiliam, 2009) into the policy frameworks of a number of nations (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2005; 2008; Educational Testing Service [ETS], 2009). From the perspective of this paper it is important to understand how schools must work in support of Benkler's vision of a cooperative society through the consistent and effective implementation of formative assessments that support lifelong learning competencies. Bransford, Derry, Berliner, Hammerness, and Beckett (2005) note the difference between 'routine experts' and 'adaptive experts,' implying that for students to become effective learners they need to be taught by teachers who have received initial and continuing training on instructional methods which help them to adapt their teaching to meet the needs of their students (Black & Wiliam, 1998a; 1998b; Vogt & Rogalla, 2009). Routine experts have a range of core competencies which they consistently deploy across the span of their lifetimes to attain increasing efficiency. Adaptive experts however have core competencies which are consonant with Benkler's adaptive, creative person. They are more likely to adapt those core competences and innovate new approaches that better equip them to capitalize on opportunities and solve problems which could otherwise appear mystifying. "Adaptive expertise is discussed as the gold-standard for learning in How People Learn" (National Research Council [NRC], 2000 cited in Bransford et al., 2005, p. 49). This is because adaptive experts in classroom-assessment are largely in favor of dimensions of efficiency and innovation, processes which are not mutually exclusive but intertwined as the basic features of good teaching. Research suggests that for effective formative assessment to take place, teachers need to develop adaptive expertise--short-cycle adaptation of teaching to meet the needs of the students being the key to formative assessment practice (Black & Wiliam, 1998b). Administrators and policy-makers need to support teachers as they adapt their core practices (such adaptation of practice should result in teachers being more flexible in their approach to instruction and assessment), particularly in the short term when they are most susceptible to decreases in their efficiency.

The State of Art at the Turn of the 21st Century

Why 'Art'?

An examination of the 'art' of instruction is an important theme of this article because the notion of teaching as an art form has direct relevance to the successful enactment of formative assessments. Macintyre, Buck, and Beckenhauer (2007) take an increasingly popular holistic perspective, arguing that the "necessary interpretive eye and capacity to act" (or react) to evidence of learning during interaction requires "artistic teaching visions, attending to the creation of student meaning on an individual and collective basis" (p. 5). The authors believe that "artistic teaching visions offered glimpses into how formative assessment use holds potential to restore the participatory dynamic integral to learning" (p. 1) by linking the process to the product to the learner. Macintyre et al. (2007) found that despite rigorous in-service training on student reasoning and multiple methods for connecting content and learner, efforts to instill "artistry" into teacher practice "began to transcend these efforts as an impoverished need we saw as critical to addressing the formative assessment hurdle" (p. …

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