5. How to create conditions for formative assesment

A quantitative and qualitative research conducted at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca, respectively the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine by TUCN Impropal team member Alina Crișan aimed to identify the degree / extent to which formative assessment may increase learning motivation and consequently help improve student learning performance (Crișan, 2017). It is suggested that such study contributes to creating conditions for raising awareness and for promoting the benefits of FA, among the academic staff and among students, but also at institutional level (Crișan, 2017):

  • In the early study years at least, most of the students – being just arrived from the pre-university education system, where the importance given to continuous assessment stimulated, at least passively, a relatively constant involvement in the learning activity – live with the illusion of a certain higher education ‘freedom’. In turn, the absence of coercion throughout the academic year may result in a decrease in learning motivation. For many students, the exam session becomes therefore the main period for learning, if not the only one. Consequently, their learning outcomes, considered in terms of their stability and depth, raise serious questions. Thus a study on the importance of FA among students has the potential of raising awareness of the need and importance of purposeful, active and constant involvement with learning, throughout the entire semester / academic year.
  • Formative Assessment will clearly not be able to remedy all issues related to the educational process efficiency. Nevertheless, it surely is a powerful and reliable pedagogic tool, available to all teachers interested in improving the quality of their teaching, as mirrored by the students’ learning outcomes. Despite being time and energy consuming, FA has the rewarding quality of configuring an engaging, transparent and mutually confident learning relation between students and teachers. Making FA better known and increasingly used by higher education teachers clearly has the potential of increasing the efficiency of the educational process, as visible at the level of learning outcomes but, most importantly, at the level of students’ active involvement with their own learning.
  • For institutions, becoming aware of FA’s potential in increasing the quality of the offered academic preparation implies the need of rethinking their long-term strategies. Purposefully promoting and embedding FA in the academic recommendations and regulations may include redesigning some of the educational activities, rethinking some of the teaching variables (e.g. student group size) and evaluation methods.

The above-mentioned research revealed that FA is underestimated at institutional level. Deemed too time and effort-consuming, poorly known at theoretical level, often only applied incidentally in class, nevertheless potentially an attractive tool. (Crisan, 2017). In order to evaluate the degree of knowledge of the concept of FA among the teaching staff and the ways in which it is carried out, if, at all, institutions may use specific teacher questionnaires or teacher interviews on aspects such as the following (Crișan, 2017):

  1. Knowledge of the concepts of Formative Assessment [FA] or Formative Feedback [FF]:
  • Great extent
  • Significant extent
  • Small extent
  • Very small extent
  • Not at all
  1. The importance given by teachers to FA, respectively to FF in their own teaching activities:
  • Great extent
  • Significant extent
  • Small extent
  • Very small extent
  • Not at all
  1. Teacher’s view on the role of FA or FF in increasing student motivation and ownership of their own learning:

 

  1. Degree / frequency according to which FA is carried out, if at all:
  • Never
  • Weekly
  • Every two weeks
  • … times per semester
  1. Type(s) of teaching activities wherein FA is mainly used (according to the specific teaching programmes and academic systems – seminar, laboratory, project work, course etc.):
  2. The estimated percentage in which FA contributes to a decrease in the share of purely Summative Assessments:
  3. The extent to which FA was taken into account in the design of teaching activities:
  • Great extent
  • Significant extent
  • Small extent
  • Very small extent
  • Not at all
  1. Teacher’s perception of the effort and time spent on FA – e.g. number of extra hours per week to prepare and evaluate FA activities:
  2. Specifying the methods and procedures used in FA:
  3. Methods of providing FF:
  4. Suggestions / proposals for improving their educational activities in the light of FA and FF:

Similarly, institutions may benefit from questioning their students as well about their perception of the potential benefits of FA and FF. Such student questionnaire may include the following:

  1. What means, in your opinion, learning efficiently?
  2. Which are the concrete results of efficient learning?
  • Grades obtained at examinations
  • Durability and consistency of acquired knowledge
  • Capacity of applying knowledge in new contexts
  • Acquired competencies
  • Other opinions
  1. Which is, in your opinion, the most appropriate period for learning?
  • During the exam session
  • During the academic year
  • During both periods
  1. To which extent do you consider that learning during the academic year ensures the success / high grades in the exam session?
  • Great extent
  • Significant extent
  • Small extent
  • Very small extent
  • Not at all
  1. How much time do you allocate weekly for learning what has been taught (current lectures)?
  • Less that 8 hours. Please specify how many hours do you allocate …
  • More then 8 hours. Please specify how many hours do you allocate …
  • No time at all
  1. How often do you consider that you should be evaluated during an academic year, to obtain optimal results?
  • Never
  • Once
  • Several times
  • Weekly
  • Other opinions
  1. Do you consider that grades represent a correct / real measurement of your efforts?
  • To very large extent
  • To large extent
  • To small extent
  • To very small extent
  • Not at all
  1. What motivates you to learn during the semester?
  • Fear of failure / desire of obtaining good marks
  • Desire of being as good as possible in the chosen field / specialisation
  • Evaluation during the semester
  • The way in which the teacher approaches the didactic activity
  1. To which extent do you consider the teacher influences the learning process and your personal learning motivation?
  • To very large extent
  • To large extent
  • To small extent
  • To very small extent
  • Not at all
  1. Which should be the teacher’s role in relation to the learning process and to your personal motivation to study?

It is suggested that launching the two questionnaires to both teachers and students is essential, on the one hand, for raising awareness about the need of using FA. On the other hand, the questionnaires should help teachers realise the need of being informed about the specific FA methods and techniques (see “TUCN io6 2 Methods and techniques”) as well about how to fine-tune them according to their own pedagogic needs and objectives (see “TUCN io6 6 How to train abilities”).

References

Crișan, A. Case Study on the Importance of Formative Assessment in Stimulating Student Motivation for Learning and Increasing the Efficiency of the Educational Process, Journal of Educational Sciences and Psychology, Vol. 7, Issue 1, pp.20-25,

available on-line.