Becoming a Great High School: 6 Strategies and 1 Attitude That Make a Difference

By Tim R. Westerberg | Go to book overview

5
Strategy 3: Using Frequent
Formative Assessment

To err may be human, but giving corrective feedback is divine.

—Janet Metcalf

With this quotation, Janet Metcalf, a professor of psychology, neurobiology, and behavior at Columbia University, captures the essence of the research on the power of formative assessment (Viadero, 2006). As a principal, few things frustrated me more than hearing a teacher say something to the effect of “I thought the students were getting it. I asked if there were any questions and no one raised their hand, but I just graded the unit exam and there are a lot of Ds and Fs. Oh well, on to the next topic.”

Assessment used in this way does little to encourage students to keep trying. In fact, this kind of assessment produces a negative rather than a positive response to results. When students receive assessment scores after it is too late to improve their performance, they are not able to accept their roles as data-based instructional decision makers. Rick Stiggins (2008) calls this concept academic self-efficacy. He says, “It is time to replace the intimidation of accountability as our prime motivator with the promise of academic success for all learners as that motivational force” (p. 10).

In a recent e-mail exchange regarding effective feedback, John Hattie, a professor at the University of Auckland and a highly regarded education researcher wrote, “Feedback is one of the most powerful influences [on learning and achievement]—and [it is] surprisingly absent from many classrooms despite the claims by most teachers” (J. Hattie, personal communication, 2008). He

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