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Why and How Assessment

for Learning Works


Dylan Wiliam (@dylanwiliam)
www.dylanwiliamcenter.com

Formative assessment
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One principle about learning


If I had to reduce all of educational psychology
to just one principle, I would say this: The most
important single factor influencing learning is
what the learner already knows. Ascertain this
and teach him accordingly.(Ausubel, 1968 p.vi)

One fact about the world


Students do not learn what we teach

Formative assessment as
assessment
Assessment is a procedure for making
inferences (Cronbach, 1971)
Four elements of educational assessment
Designing ways in which we can get evidence
relevant to student learning
Collecting the evidence
Interpreting the evidence
Using the evidence

Formative and summative


assessment
The formative-summative distinction is a
classification of the kinds of inferences
being made
Summative: inferences regarding an
individuals current, or future, status
Formative: inferences regarding the kinds of
instructional activities likely to improve
learning

No such thing as a formative or a


summative assessment
And prepositional permutations are not
helpful

An inclusive definition
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An assessment functions formatively:


to the extent that evidence about student
achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by
teachers, learners, or their peers, to make
decisions about the next steps in instruction that
are likely to be better, or better founded, than
the decisions they would have taken in the
absence of the evidence that was elicited.
(Black & Wiliam, 2009 p. 9)

What is learning
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A change in the capacity of an organism


to respond to stimuli in valued ways as a
result of experience
A change in long-term memory
The fact that learners know something now
does not guarantee that they will know it in
six weeks time, but
The fact that they dont know it now probably
does mean that they will not know it in six
weeks time

But what, exactly,


is formative
assessment?

Unpacking Formative
Assessment
Where the learner
is going

Teache
r

Peer

Studen
t

Clarifying,
sharing,
and
understandi
ng learning
intentions

Where the learner


is now
Engineering

Engineering
effective
discussions,
tasks, and
activities that
elicit evidence
of learning

How to get
the learner there

Providing
feedback that
moves learners
forward

Activating students as
resources for one another

Activating students as
owners of their own learning

Two creation myths for formative


assessment
Bottom up, from feedback research
Top down, from EEF toolkit
Meta-analysis (Kingston & Nash, 2011;
2015)

Relevant studies

Fuchs & Fuchs (1986)


Natriello (1987)
Crooks (1988)
Bangert-Drowns, et al.
(1991)
Kluger & DeNisi (1996)
Black & Wiliam (1998)
Nyquist (2003)
Dempster (1991)
Dempster (1992)

Elshout-Mohr (1994)
Brookhart (2004)
Allal & Lopez (2005)
Kller (2005)
Brookhart (2007)
Wiliam (2007)
Hattie & Timperley
(2007)
Shute (2008)
Kingston & Nash (2011)

Educational Endowment
Foundation toolkit

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Intervention

Cost

Quality of
evidence

Extra
months of
learning

Feedback

+8

Metacognition and selfregulation

+8

Peer tutoring

+6

+6

+5

Homework (secondary)

+5

Collaborative learning

+5

Phonics

+4

Small group tuition

+4

Behaviour interventions

+4

+4

+4

Early years intervention


One to one tuition

Digital technology
Social and emotional

Recent meta-analytic findings


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Content area

95% confidence interval for


effect size
Lower
Mean
Upper

Mathematics
English Language
Arts
Science

19

0.14

0.17

0.20

0.30

0.32

0.34

17

0.06

0.19

0.31

Total

40

Mean effect size 0.20


A big effect size
Equivalent to a 50% to 70% increase in the rate of learning
Kingston and Nash (2011, 2015)

Consequences of the definition


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Formative assessment is not a thing


Anyoneteacher, peer, learner, can be the
agent of formative assessment;
The focus is on decisions, rather than data;
The next steps in instruction indicated may
not be the best, or even successful;
The assessment need not actually change
the decision made.
And, therefore, formative does not mean
optimal, or even good

Critiques of formative
assessment

14

The
The
The
The
The
The

measurement issue
definitional issue
domain dependency issue
effectiveness issue
professional development issue
system issue

Bennett (2011)

A simple choice
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Keep searching for new ideas about what


might and might not work, or
Focus on making sure that we are what
we already know will help students learn
more is being done in our classrooms