Applying Formative Assessment in Professional Development

In these past few weeks, I have been exploring professional development (PD) models that optimize adult learning. The primary focus of these posts has been on the characteristics of adult learning and various professional development formats that honor these characteristics.  While understanding these models is important so that participants gain the most out of their professional development, in this post I’d like to focus on applying these concepts to incorporate content, exploring educational technology best practices described in the ISTE coaching standard 4b:  “Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment,” (ISTE, 2017).

In investigating digital age
best practices, formative assessment appeared as a reoccurring theme. Formative
assessment as part of a feedback loops empowers learners to engage in the trial
and error of learning safely and with minimal risk. Applying formative
assessment to professional development could offer similar results. In applying
this idea to the ISTE standard, I began wondering what
digital tools could be implemented to teach teachers about the importance of
formative feedback?

What is
“Formative Assessment” and why is it a best practice?

Feedback loops are often used as a teaching
best practice in aiding students build 21st century skills. As
described in other posts in this blog, of the four different types of
assessment, traditional, or summative, assessment measures learning after an
assignment has been turned in.  Summative
evaluation assumes that a student has “learned” after an intervention (such as
teaching) and the educator evaluates the extent of that learning, (Vlad-Ortiz,
2018). While summative assessment is useful for formal evaluation, it may not
be timely nor help students improve if only offered as one-time feedback,
(Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). Where summative assessment is formal and final, formative
assessment is more casual and on-going as the evaluation occurs during the
learning, (Vlad-Ortiz, 2018). Formative assessment therefore provides a checkpoint
for student understanding, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.)

I explore the benefits
of feedback loops for students in this post
, I’d like to expand the
investigation to including formative feedback as a tool in adult learning.  The Office of Educational Technology found
that formative feedback when coupled with technology tools may be more complete
than traditional assessment and may “reduce time, resources, and disruption” to
conduct the assessment, (Office of Educational Technology, n.d.) These benefits
help educators as formative assessment may provide an avenue for capturing
teaching qualities that open opportunities for “self-reflection, peer
reflection, feedback, and supervisor evaluation,” (Office of Educational
Technology, n.d.). Extending these concepts further, formative assessment can
be used in professional development as a means to inform instructional practice
where participants track their own learning, (Office of Educational Technology,
n.d.). This means that meaningful evaluation can occur more rapidly and
frequently, offer more insight, and help guide professional development needs.

tools that can be used for formative assessment.

There are several educational technology tools
that can be used for formative assessment. Common Sense Education created a
list of the top
27 tools for formative assessment available here.
 These formative feedback tools include the
following features: student progress tracking, interactive and collaborative
activities, student-paced learning, and instant feedback to both students and
teacher. Formative feedback is given by utilizing interactive slideshow
presentations, video responses, multi-multimedia platforms, content-mapping,
quizzes (including clickers and polling), and backchannel chats. In creating
the list, Common Sense Education agrees with the Office of Educational
Technology stating that the best formative assessment tools help students (and
participants in this case) self-reflect and assess so that they understand
their current level of learning and self-identify areas of improvement, (Common
Sense Education, n.d.).

formative assessment into professional development.

Incorporating formative assessment in adult learning must assume that participants are learners who are joining the professional development for a variety of different motives that are relevant to their work situations. Though are quite a few professional development resources available on the internet on formative feedback tools, I’d like to use this professional development video I found through YouTube entitled, “10Tips for Formative Assessment with Technology: Meaningful, Sustainable, & Scalable” as an example. In the video Dr. Monica Burns walks participants through her tips by highlighting main features and how to use some formative feedback tools.  A summary of her tips is provided in figure 1.1 below.

infographic on tips for incoporating technology tools with formative assessment.
Figure 1.1. Tips for Formative Assessment with Technology

Though the video is purely informational as
Dr. Burns lectures for about 30 minutes on her ten tips, this could be a useful
resource for participants that are highly motivated. The professional
development model used assumes that the participants already have an awareness
of formative assessment and simply need guidance or ideas on how to implement
this in their teaching practice.

According to the ISTE standard, best practices
for the effective PD includes modeling, (ISTE, 2017). While the workshop above
may model ways to use each tool through verbal and visual description, it fails
to include participant buy-in and interaction. Formative feedback could have
been included into the professional development itself, allowing participants
an opportunity to experience instant feedback through the lens of a learner. For
example, demonstrating how to gauge comprehension to better understand the
audience’s needs could have been accomplished by using a backchannel chat or
using the polling/quizzes apps described in the video.  This tangible and experiential approach could
help increase self-efficacy of technology tools for mixed audiences where the
presenter modifies their role to facilitation at certain periods of the professional
development.  When presenters start
thinking about their participants as learners, professional development becomes
stronger, more impactful which can yield better improvements in teaching and


Common Sense Education, (n.d.) Top tech tools
for formative assessment. Available from:

Office of Educational Technology, (n.d.)
Section 4: Measuring for Learning. Available from:

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Incorporating feedback
loops to develop an empowered student [blog]. Available from:

Vlad-Ortiz, C. (2018). Instructional coaching: Using rubrics to quantify qualitative data for improved teaching outcomes.
Available from:

Comments are closed.