This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding and application of the information contained in The Formative Assessment Action Plan: Practical Steps to More Successful Teaching and Learning, an ASCD book written by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher and published in May 2011.
You can use the study guide before or after you have read the book or as you finish each chapter. The study questions provided are not meant to cover all aspects of the book but, rather, to address specific ideas that might warrant further reflection.
Most of the questions contained in this study guide are ones you can think about on your own, but you might consider pairing with a colleague or forming a study group with others who have read (or are reading) The Formative Assessment Action Plan: Practical Steps to More Successful Teaching and Learning.
Chapter 1: Creating a Formative Assessment System
- Why is an overreliance on feedback problematic?
- "A formative assessment system is only as good as the instructional framework on which it rests." What is your reaction to this statement?
- Each aspect of the gradual release of responsibility framework presents its own unique opportunities for gathering formative assessment information. What methods are most appropriate for each phase (e.g., establishing purpose, teacher modeling, guided instruction, productive group work, independent tasks)?
- What misconceptions about formative assessment do you think are the most prevalent? What processes or procedures reinforce these misconceptions?
Chapter 2: Feed-Up: Where Am I Going?
- According to Jay McTighe and Ken O'Connor, three elements shape a student's ability to learn: task clarity, relevance, and potential for success. In what ways can a lack of clarity, relevance, or potential for success negatively impact learning? What examples have you seen of this in your classroom or in your own learning?
- In what ways do content standards differ from content purpose statements? What difficulties do you anticipate others might have in distinguishing the two?
- Student motivation is the subject of many discussions among educators. What surprised you about this topic? What information reinforced your observations and views about motivation and learning?
- Carol Dweck's research on the dangers of breeding a fixed view of intelligence reveals its negative impact on learning and behavior. How can a formative assessment system encourage a more malleable view of intelligence?
- Students can get bogged down by a belief that certain academic situations are too complex to repair. How can setting goals and making plans help these learners move forward?
- Goal setting is closely linked to motivation. In what ways can goal setting be incorporated into classroom practice? How might goal-setting practices vary for individual students at different developmental levels?
Chapter 3: Checking for Understanding: Where Am I Now?
- Benchmark assessments are often cited as evidence of a school's or district's formative assessment system. What do benchmark assessments contribute to a formative assessment system, and what are their shortcomings?
- What methods do you currently use to check for understanding? What are some new methods you could incorporate into your instruction?
- Questioning is perhaps the most common way teachers check for understanding. How do you define a good questioning repertoire? What hinders good questioning techniques?
- Writing can be used as a means to check for understanding (e.g., when students prepare a summary of a topic). How can writing also be a means for students to check their own understanding?
- How can tests and quizzes be made more useful for learning—not just assessment?
- What were your experiences with common formative assessments? Identify relevant areas of strength at your school or district. What are areas that need improvement?
Chapter 4: Feedback: How Am I Doing?
- Think about your own learning experiences. When has feedback just been "feedbad"?
- Identify the benefits of and errors to avoid in each of the four types of feedback: about the task, about the processing of the task, about self-regulation, and about the self as a person.
- What steps do you take to make feedback timely, specific, understandable, and actionable?
- Prior to reading this book, what was your understanding of oral and written feedback? In what ways does it align with or differ from the techniques discussed on pages 77–83?
- In what ways have you used peer feedback in your classroom? How do your methods compare with the approach discussed on pages 83–88?
Chapter 5: Feed-Forward: Where Am I Going Next?
- "As much as we might wish for a strictly behavioral theory of learning, where exposure to information would lead directly to results, we know too much about learning and cognition to cling to such a naive view." What is your reaction to this statement?
- Error analysis and miscues are an essential part of a feed-forward formative assessment system. What are the advantages of and barriers to these practices?
- Guided instruction is sometimes erroneously confused with guided reading. In what ways are guided instruction and guided reading similar? In what ways are they different?
- Examine Figure 5.3 on page 103. The number of decisions a teacher makes during an exchange with a student can seem overwhelming. How can advance preparation of questions, prompts, and cues make decision making easier during guided instruction?
- In what ways can a clearly established purpose benefit direct explanation and modeling?
- The feed-forward aspect of a formative assessment system is more challenging than the steps that precede it. Why is this so? Which strengths (at the grade, school, and district levels) can be utilized to build teachers' capacity to feed-forward?
Chapter 6: Building a Formative Assessment System
- In what ways does differentiation inform instruction? How does formative assessment inform differentiation?
- Leadership is important in developing a formative assessment system that impacts instruction and curriculum. Who are the stakeholders that need to be involved in this process?
- A lack of agreement about the definition of quality can lead to frustration for everyone involved. Does a shared definition of quality exist between teachers and administrators in your school or district? Is it clearly defined?
- In your school or district, what processes are currently used to gather information about best practices? How can these processes be improved to support the development of a formative assessment plan?
The Formative Assessment Action Plan: Practical Steps to More Successful Teaching and Learning was written by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher. This 156-page, 7″ × 9″ book (Stock #111013; ISBN-13: 978-1-4166-1169-1) is available from ASCD for $17.95 (ASCD member) or $23.95 (nonmember). Copyright © 2011 by ASCD. To order a copy, call ASCD at 1-800-933-2723 (in Virginia 1-703-578-9600) and press 2 for the Service Center. Or buy the book from ASCD's Online Store.