Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Involving Students/Upper Elementary

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Formative Assessment Techniques for Middle School Students

By: Erica Corbett

Learning Targets

Readers should be able to identify the differences between a formative assessment and a summative assessment.

Readers should be able to discuss the effects of different techniques of formative assessment used for assessing middle school students in a diverse environment.


When most people hear of assessments, the first kind of exams they would think of is those that will test a student’s knowledge of a subject. However, that is not always the case. Assessments are used not only to test one’s knowledge of a subject, but to track how far along a student is, how far they need to go, and how to get to their optimal destination. In this article one will identify different assessment types and different assessment techniques used for children at the middle school or upper elementary level.

Summative vs. Formative Assessments

There are two major types of assessments, summative and formative. According to Creating Literacy Instruction for All Students, “Summative assessment summarizes students' progress at the end of a unit or a semester or at some other point in time”. Statewide exams such as the SOLs are considered summative exams because it assesses the student’s knowledge and occurs after the student has learned the required materials. This kind of exam is used for accountability purposes. This holds the student, teacher, and even the state accountable for progress of the student. An example of a summative exam can be found here

Formative is the other type of assessment. Formative assessments occur while learning is still going on. According to Creating Literacy Instruction for All Students, “Formative assessments can be powerful and is especially helpful for struggling learners.” This kind of exam helps the student and teacher prepare for summative exams. Examples of formative exams include, practice quizzes, essays, and rough drafts. This allows the student and teacher to track progress and to correct mistakes. One major difference between summative and formative assessments is the notion of feedback. Feedback, which is very vital for formative assessments, is very important concerning student growth. This is very important because, it allows the student to become more aware of where they are, how far they need to go and what it takes to get there.

Formative Assessment Techniques for Middle School Students

The increased diversity in the nation's classroom has prompted much attention to the challenges associated with educating multicultural, multilingual student population

- D. Darling and H. Hodges

As the country becomes more diverse, the types and the deliverance of assessments have become very important for instructors, especially at the middle school level. The teacher would not only have to focus on how to deliver the lesson to English speaking students from similar backgrounds, but also to those who do not speak English from very different backgrounds as well.

Barbara Allison and Marsha Rehm, both conducted a study within the Florida school system to determine what kinds of assessments are highly effective in diverse middle school classrooms. The state of Florida was chosen as the model for diversity within the school system because, 50% of students within the school system are members of an ethnic minority group( According to the study, visuals, cooperative learning, and peer tutoring were considered highly effective methods of formative assessments for the Floridian teachers. Visuals are considered highly effective because it is a “universal language” regardless of background or language. Anyone can understand what an apple looks like or what numbers can entail. This is a perfect example of how formative assessment is universal for all students regardless of background.

According to Saravia-Shore and Garcia, Snowman and Bieler, the peer tutoring strategy within a diverse setting is “very effective when two students from different backgrounds are paired together” . This and the cooperative learning strategy are very effective because the students have to depend on each other to get ahead. This will entail the students to understand their differences and for non English speaking learners, to break the language barrier.


Formative Assessment techniques are very important within the classroom. As the country becomes more diverse, these kinds of assessments have accommodate every student in the classroom regardless of background or English level capacity.


1. Which of the following is considered a summative assessment source?

a) Rough Drafts

b) Statewide Exams

c) Practice Quizzes

d) Essays

2. What is the use of a Formative Assessment?

a) to track the progress of the student

b) to assess what the student has learned at the end of the year

c) to prepare for the summative exam

d) both a and c

3. Ms. Thompson decides to use the method of peer reviewing to emphasize the notion of correct grammar in her class. According to the article, which pairing would be most effective?

a) an English student with another English student

b) a non speaking English student with an English student

c) a non speaking English student with a non speaking English student

4. After the peer review exercise, Ms. Thompson decides to use a technique that is "universal" to every student regardless of their background? Which technique should she use?

a) peer review

b) cooperative learning

c) visual aids

answers:1.b 2.d 3.b 4.c


Virginia History to 1861. Retrieved on March 22, 2009 from Virginia SOL website

Gunning, Thomas G.(2008).Creating Literacy Instruction for All Students(6th ed.).Pearson Education Inc.

Allison, Barbara, Rehm, Marsha (2007).Effective Teaching Strategies for Middle School Learners in Multicultural, Multilingual Classrooms.Middle School Journal,39(2), 2, 4-6

Saravia-Shore, M., & Garcia, E. (1995). Diverse teaching strategies for diverse learners. In R. W. Cole (Ed.), Educating everybody's children: Diverse strategies for diverse learners (pp. 47–74). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Snowman, J., & Biehler, R. (2003). Psychology applied to teaching (10th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Darling, D. (2005). Improving minority student achievement by making cultural connections. Middle Ground, 36(5), 46–50.

Hodges, H. (2001). Overcoming a pedagogy of poverty. In R. W. Cole (Ed.), More strategies for educating everybody's children (pp. 1–9). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.