Assessing to Empower Learners • Formative Assessment

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, "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.

MLA Citation Stripling, Barbara K. "Assessing to Empower Learners: Formative Assessment." School Library Connection, November 2019,

View all citation styles

Entry ID: 2228081

Back to Top