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Formative Assessment

Formative assessment is a process that involves the ongoing use of information about students’ knowledge, understanding and skills to target teaching and address student learning needs. Formative assessment provides teachers and students with opportunities for feedback throughout teaching and learning and provides evidence about progress to inform the next steps in learning.

All assessment can be used in a formative way by teachers and/or students. Assessment becomes formative when information about student learning is used to adapt teaching to meet student learning needs and when students are provided with timely feedback and opportunities to improve.

Teachers can use formative assessment to identify what students know and can do before new content is taught. Through formative assessment, progress can be monitored over time and students can become active participants in the learning process. Formative assessment can help both teachers and students to develop a greater awareness of learning through goal setting, monitoring the learning progress and adapting goals for future learning.

The purpose of formative assessment is to:

  • inform teaching and learning to meet student learning needs
  • identify misunderstandings and skills not yet mastered to guide teacher action
  • focus on learning processes to inform next steps for teacher and student
  • provide students with opportunities to improve
  • reflect on the learning process and set learning goals.

Formative assessment includes:

  • identifying where student learning is going and what success looks like​​
  • finding evidence of student learning in a variety of ways
  • providing feedback that supports the student to progress in their learning
  • providing opportunities for students to give feedback to one another on learning
  • self-evaluating or making judgements in relation to goals and/or criteria.
Diagram outlining the Formative assessment process. Details in long description.

Image long description: A diagram showing the Formative assessment process. Five circles are connected by arrows, showing that the process is circular and continuous. The top circle contains the text ‘Identifying where the learning is going and what success looks like’, with an arrow pointing to the next circle, which contains the text ‘Finding evidence of learning in a variety of ways’. An arrow points to a third circle which is surrounded by 3 double-sided arrows, with the text ‘Using feedback’. Around this circle there is text reading ‘Interpreting information’, ‘Providing and actioning feedback’ and ‘Evaluating feedback’. An arrow points to the next circle with the text ‘Determining next steps’. An arrow points to the next circle with the text ‘Adapting goals’. An arrow from the fifth circle points to the first circle.

This model emphasises the importance of feedback in decisions that teachers and students make about progress, and the next steps in teaching and learning. The process involves:

  • identifying where the learning is going, what is being learnt, why and how it will be learnt, and providing clear expectations for success
  • finding evidence of learning in a variety of ways to understand where student learning is at that point in time
  • determining how information about learning will be interpreted, what feedback will be provided and when, how the feedback will be actioned, and the process for evaluation
  • deciding how the information will be used to move the learning forward and determining next steps in teaching and learning
  • adapting teacher and student goals by reflecting on the learning process.

Formative assessment approaches

Teachers and students may use a range of approaches to engage in the process of formative assessment. The following examples outline some of these approaches.

Teacher observations

Teacher observations can provide information about student progress and achievement in relation to the syllabus. Observations can occur informally during teaching and learning, or formally, where specific learning requires teacher observation of student knowledge and/or skill.

Assessment experiences may include:

  • student participation in practical activities
  • student application of skills to demonstrate understanding of key concepts
  • student application of learning in familiar and unfamiliar contexts
  • teacher questioning to observe individual level of understanding
  • teacher–student discussions or conferences.

Teacher observation can be used to interpret information about student progress in relation to:

  • knowledge of key concepts
  • application of knowledge and understanding to new contexts and situations
  • development and application of skills
  • communication, collaboration and critical and creative thinking.

Peer assessment and self-assessment

Peer assessment and self-assessment can provide students and teachers with information to inform goal setting and reflect on learning. For peer assessment and self-assessment to be effective and meaningful, students need to be explicitly shown how to assess their own work and the work of others. Formally, students may use criteria to make decisions about their own progress and to provide feedback on the progress of others. Informally, students may use prompts to ask questions about the quality of their own work and the work of others. Using peer assessment and self-assessment enables students to take a more active role in their learning. It encourages them to reflect on where they are in their learning, identify the next steps needed to make progress and monitor their progress over time.

Peer assessment

Peer assessment involves students assessing each other's work in relation to specific goals or criteria. Students provide feedback to one another and respond to this feedback to improve their learning. Teachers should model how to assess learning and use appropriate language to clarify expectations for assessment that incorporates peer feedback. Feedback may take a variety of forms and should provide opportunities for students to develop their social, collaborative and reflective skills.

Students may provide feedback to their peers about:

  • what has been completed
  • strengths and/or aspects that have been completed well
  • suggestions for how to improve with reference to specific learning goals and/or criteria
  • alternative strategies to refine learning.


Self-assessment involves students assessing their own learning in relation to personal learning goals to identify what they know, the direction they need to take and how they are going to get there. This can provide both teachers and students with information to support future teaching and learning.

Self-assessment questions may include:

  • What do I already know about this learning area?
  • What will help me achieve this learning goal and why is it important?
  • How will I know when I achieve my learning goals?
  • How can I use criteria to improve?
  • What do I notice when I compare my work to exemplars and/or the work of others?
  • How can I use feedback to improve?
  • What strategies can I use when I find myself being challenged?
  • How has my learning improved through collaborating with others?

Prompts for students may include:

  • Things I have learnt are …
  • I need to work on …
  • I collaborated by …
  • Next time I will ...
  • I will use my new skills to ...
  • I will use my knowledge to ...
  • My strength today was …
  • My biggest improvement is …
  • I would like to learn more about …

Self-assessment experiences may include:

  • reflections on learning processes
  • creating portfolios of work
  • self-assessment of progress in relation to the syllabus
  • evaluating own contributions to a group task
  • reassessing learning goals based on feedback.


Collaborative activities enable teachers to assess learning that occurs as a result of interaction between students. Students interact through common or related activities, often using modelled, guided and independent approaches to learning. Collaboration can occur using a variety of tools and in face-to-face and digital modes. For effective collaboration, the group should have a clear understanding of the purpose and goals.

Collaborative assessment experiences may include:

  • group discussions to evaluate and challenge views
  • team-based investigations, including the allocation of specific roles and responsibilities
  • group-prepared presentations
  • group-based problem-solving in authentic contexts.

When collaborative activities are used for assessment purposes, evidence can be gathered about students’ ability to:

  • work together in structured teams
  • solve problems and make decisions with others
  • demonstrate skills in applying knowledge
  • take individual and/or shared responsibility for learning during group work
  • think critically and creatively, and offer constructive feedback
  • analyse, evaluate and synthesise information.

Worked examples

Worked examples are demonstrations of one or more skills, modelled by the teacher, that can help students to know and recognise the standards for which they are aiming. Worked examples can support assessment by allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills with greater confidence as they know what is required of them. Worked examples can be used to explain the steps required to achieve learning goals, solve problems and support skill acquisition. Presenting students with worked examples or creating worked examples with students can reduce the cognitive load often associated with new learning.

Assessment experiences may include:

  • engaging with annotated exemplars of learning to deepen knowledge, understanding and skills, and/or an understanding of achievement standards
  • teacher-and-student joint construction of learning through collaborative discussion and modelling in a range of modes
  • collaboratively annotating and/or discussing exemplars of work using criteria.

When worked examples are used for assessment purposes, evidence can be gathered about students’ ability to:

  • demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills throughout the learning process
  • communicate understanding of their own work in relation to the worked example and/or success criteria
  • apply a deeper understanding of criteria to their own learning
  • transfer knowledge and understanding by using worked examples as models or scaffolds for their own work
  • respond to and use explicit instruction and feedback to improve their understanding and skills
  • understand where they need to take their learning next and set future learning goals.