Formative assessment - an atmosphere conducive to learning

The traditional form of assessment of students' work which dominates in Polish schools is summative and aggregational in character, since it simply summarises the knowledge acquired. This may be a source of stress for some children, as it is impossible to avoid comparing and competing. At the Joy Primary School, we offer a completely different approach - we focus on success, which gives students additional motivation to learn.

We want assessment to support the teaching process and raise the level of student achievement. Its task is not only to summarise the knowledge acquired but, primarily, to educate and promote learning. We believe that we will achieve this effect using the formative approach.

Formative assessment enhances the competences, both of the students and of the teachers. Unlike summative assessment, the formative approach is a process consisting of several, equally important elements, chief among which is the goal. When planning a lesson, the teacher defines the goal so that it can be understood by all the students.

Another element is the definition of what the teacher will look at when assessing a student's work. This approach makes students feel safe.

The next important component of formative assessment is the information and the commentary which the student will receive from the teacher after the work or task has been completed. Effective commentary should include a description of what is good in the student's work, marking what needs improvement and giving tips on how to actually make the improvements.

In formative assessment, the teacher's co-operation with students and parents is vitally important. Teachers at the Joy Primary School devote their time to discussing exactly how students like to learn and what they can do to help them learn. In this way, we build an atmosphere of learning, increase the pupils’ self-esteem and go on to support their independence and commitment.

At the core of formative assessment lies the trust and good relationship between the teacher and the students. The formative approach is a dialogue that takes place between the students and the teacher in a safe atmosphere of mutual respect.