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Formative Evaluation

Posted in Ed Tech 101 on March 27, 2014 by



What is “formative evaluation”?

Often contrasted with summative or “final” evaluation, formative evaluation encompasses a variety of assessment types that are employed during the learning or development process. Though the term is often used as a synonym for “formative assessment” in a classroom context, it has a slightly broader application and can apply to any situation where evaluation occurs mid-process. For this reason, it is often associated with continuous evaluation/assessment.

Generally lower stakes than summative evaluation, which is often linked to external benchmarks and standards, formative evaluation provides ongoing feedback to all parties involved and can be used to adjust the process mid-way in order to improve its outcome. According to the Evaluation Toolbox, there are several categories of formative evaluation, including “proactive” (pre-work phase), “clarificative” (outset of the process, intended to clarify purpose), “interactive” (woven into the work or development process) and “monitoring” (lightly observational).

What are some of the benefits of formative evaluation?

  • Because formative evaluation often involves qualitative thinking and questioning, it can help people understand the purpose and meaning of their work.   
  • Formative evaluation can help people understand their own learning process (also known as metacognition) and what works for them.
  • Formative evaluation allows for tighter feedback loops and the quick correction of mistakes and misunderstandings.

Here at Knewton, we love geeking out over edtech – the people, the technology, and its potential to change the world. As part of our participation in the community, we’re putting together an “Ed Tech 101” glossary to explore the language itself – the buzzwords, the jargon, the neologisms, and everything in between. Have an ed tech word or phrase you’d like us to feature? Leave a comment!