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Developing Formative Assessment

This section contains links to projects involving the development of formative and summative assessments. It also includes links to a short list of readings that gives some indication of the differing views expressed in relation to formative and summative assessment. For more detailed information on different types of assessment design there are also more examples in the section on Developing Programme Level Assessment.

  • The REAP [Re-engineering Assessment Practices] project redesigned assessment and feedback using a self-regulation model.  It gives examples of developing assessment & feedback for predominantly large groups (including the use of technology).  REAP was initially supported by the Scottish Funding Council & the project appears to still be ongoing. This example links to the REAP ‘one minute paper’ – a way to encourage feed – forward from a class based (very) mini formative assessment. Can be used with large groups:

Selected literature:

Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education (2010) 35(5). This special issue of the journal focuses on formative assessment and feedback in Higher Education.

Black, P. & Wiliam, D. (2009) Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability. 21(1): 5-31 (ejournal).

    Abstract: Whilst many definitions of formative assessment have been offered, there is no clear rationale to define and delimit it within broader theories of pedagogy. This paper aims to offer such a rationale, within a framework which can also unify the diverse set of practices which have been described as formative. The analysis is used to relate formative assessment both to other pedagogic initiatives, notably cognitive acceleration and dynamic assessment, and to some of the existing literature on models of self-regulated learning and on classroom discourse. This framework should indicate potentially fruitful lines for further enquiry, whilst at the same time opening up new ways of helping teachers to implement formative practices more effectively.

This article by Professor Graham Gibb was commissioned by ASKe to review the literature around assessing group work, much of it is formative:

Pryor, John and Crossouard, Barbara (2010) Challenging Formative Assessment: Disciplinary Spaces and Identities. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35 (3): 265-276.

    Abstract: We draw on data from a postgraduate context to illustrate how the identities of teachers and learners may be brought into play. Formative assessment is seen to involve movement across a concrete–procedural–reflective–discursive–existential continuum, and between the convergent and divergent. We suggest that by asserting the centrality of disciplinary knowledge and identities, the frameworks presented may be used heuristically to entice academics into thinking more specifically and organically about pedagogies which are more appropriate to the changing nature of twenty first-century higher education.

Stull, J.  Varnum, S. et al (2011) The Many Faces of Formative Assessment International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.  23:1 (30-39) (ejournal). Available through ERIC:

    Abstract from author: In this research paper we consider formative assessment (FA) and discuss ways in which it has been implemented in four different university courses. We illustrate the different aspects of FA by deconstructing it and then demonstrating effectiveness in improving both teaching and student achievement.

This paper is US based and it considers the use of formative assessment in maths and science. There is discussion of using formative assessment in large groups.

Taras, M. (2005) Assessment: Summative and Formative: Some Theoretical Reflections. British Journal of Educational Studies. 53(4): 466-478 (ejournal)

    Abstract: This paper wishes to clarify the definitions of the central terms relating to assessment. It argues that all assessment begins with summative assessment (which is a judgement) and that formative assessment is in fact summative assessment plus feedback which is used by the learner.

Torrence, H. (2012) Formative assessment at the crossroads: conformative, deformative and transformative assessment. Oxford Review of Education. (38:3) (ejournal).

    Abstract from author: The theory and practice of formative assessment seems to be at a crossroads, even an impasse. Different theoretical justifications for the development of formative assessment, and different empirical exemplifications, have been apparent for many years. Yet practice, while quite widespread, is often limited in terms of its scope and its utilisation of the full range of possible approaches associated with formative assessment. The paper reviews these issues and explores them in relation to the development of formative assessment in higher education. HE is taken as ‘test case’ of the paradoxical implementation of formative assessment, whereby the aim is, ostensibly, to develop independent and critical learners, while in practice highly conformative assessment procedures are being designed and developed. The paper argues that developers also need to attend to the divergent possibilities inherent in formative assessment, if their aspirations for a more transformative practice are to be realised.