The Instructional Value of Formative Assessment and Feedback

Credit: iStock.com/Sean Anthony Eddy
Credit: iStock.com/Sean Anthony Eddy

Formative writing assessments, like writing-to-learn activities, provide instructors with valuable and ongoing insights into student learning. Often ungraded, these activities or assessments can create opportunities for instructors to generate formative feedback that helps students see where they are in the course, what they are doing well, and where they may need additional support to develop or deepen their learning. Without formative feedback, students may not realize their misunderstandings. This can lead to confusion and eventually may even cause students to lose motivation. Ultimately, formative assessments and their subsequent feedback make learning visible. The value of providing meaningful feedback to students, and the appropriateness of the way in which this is accomplished, cannot be overstated. In what follows, I first define low-stakes writing and highlight two easily implementable writing-to-learn activities: thinking pieces and reflective journals. Next, I introduce five constructive ways we can provide formative feedback to student writing-in-progress. Finally, I elaborate on the difference between marginal and terminal comments, which may do the work of formative or summative feedback or both.


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