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Assessing to Empower Learners

Formative Assessment [3:06]
  • Learn how to authentically incorporate formative assessment into your programming.
  • Learn to develop this assessment by using graphic organizers and other teacher- and student-led strategies.
  • Learn the importance of using formative assessment during the process of learning to find the areas of strength and weakness of every student.

This time let's talk about formative assessment. Formative assessment is the measurement of knowledge and skills during the process of learning in order to inform next steps and give us the information we need to provide feedback to the students.

When we teach information skills, we need to break down the skills into the steps that students need to perform in order to complete this skill. For example, if we teach notetaking, we need to not just tell students, "Ok, take notes," because there's really a skill involved there and so we need to break it down into the pieces of the skill. What do students need to do first and second and third?

When we assess, therefore, we need to develop an assessment that allows students to show that they can perform each step of the skill. The way I recommend is to develop a graphic organizer that lays out the steps and allows students to work through the process and to show their thinking through each step of the skill.

Just briefly, I wanted to mention a couple of other useful formative assessment strategies. First of all, teacher-led—and this is beyond graphic organizers—but one thing that can be very powerful for touching in and understanding where students are in their process is to do exit cards. Now, I would imagine many of you already do that, but you can quickly assess not only a particular skill based on the prompt you give, but also those are great ways to assess their attitudes and their confidence, their dispositions, and that's not always easy to assess.

Then, I wanted to tell you just about a student-led—and you actually have a handout called, "Empire State Information Fluency Continuum Framework and Key Indicators," because what we realized is that we want students to be self-directed through the inquiry process. There are some questions, some reflective questions, that students can ask themselves to decide, "Am I ready to move from Wonder to Investigate or Investigate to Construct?" We have the whole set of questions there in that handout. And you can use them and adapt them and add to them.

The whole point of formative assessment is to assess students' performance and thinking during the process of learning so that both the students and the librarian know exactly where students are succeeding and struggling and what their next steps might be. We can find out from that assessment, from formative assessment, if we need to reteach, provide increased support, or perhaps, redirect our students, because our goal is that every student will be successful.

Tools and Strategies for Formative Assessment

In this video, Dr. Stripling discusses the importance of formative assessments to propel student learning. In her article, "Teaching in the Zone: Formative Assessments for Critical Thinking," Leslie K. Maniotes applies the concept of formative assessment to the arena of critical thinking skills, taking a close look at how observation can be an effective tool. In their article "Dynamic Data and Assessment," Cynthia Stogdill and Lynn Kleinmeyer share some no-tech and yes-tech tools to help quickly visualize where students stand in their learning. After reading the articles, complete the reflection activity below.




After reading the "Teaching in the Zone," and "Dynamic Data and Assessment," use the workshop packet to list some of the formative assessment strategies or tools you'd like to try in your library and/or share with teachers at your school

MLA Citation

"Assessing to Empower Learners: Tools and Strategies for Formative Assessment." School Library Connection, November 2019,

Entry ID: 2228089

About the Author

Barbara K. Stripling, DPS, is recently retired from a long career in the library profession, including positions as Director of Library Services for the New York City schools, a school library media specialist and school district director of libraries in Arkansas, a library grant program director in Tennessee, and Senior Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Practice in the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University. Barb has written or edited numerous books and articles and is the creator of the Stripling Model of Inquiry. Stripling has recently developed and published (in April 2019) a re-imagined version of the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum, a PK-12 continuum of the skills that librarians teach to empower students to be lifelong learners ( Stripling has served the profession as president of the American Association of School Librarians (1986-1987), president of the New York Library Association (2016-2017), president of the American Library Association (2013-2014), and current president of the Freedom to Read Foundation (2020-). Email:, Twitter: @barbstripling, LinkedIn: barbarastripling

MLA Citation

Stripling, Barbara K. "Assessing to Empower Learners. Formative Assessment [3:06]." School Library Connection, ABC-CLIO, November 2019,

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Entry ID: 2228080