Helping Students Stay On the Path To Mastery: Formative Assessment PD Resources From BEAL

by Jessica Arnold

Formative Assessment: A process in which students and teachers use evidence to adapt teaching and learning to meet immediate learning needs minute-to-minute and day-by-day.

Thompson & William (2007)

Curriculum-Embedded Performance Task: a rich, engaging learning task with clear and worthwhile performance outcomes that is authentic to the discipline and/or real world, allows for a range of approaches and responses, and provides opportunities for both students and teachers to assess the work.

Now that teachers have new standards and assessments, what are the building blocks for helping students to succeed on the new tests? Ongoing formative assessment with performance tasks allows teachers to support students’ success and prepare them for tasks they will see on the Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments.

As part of the Building Educator Assessment Literacy (BEAL) project, WestEd and SCALE staff created online courses to help teachers design and implement curriculum-embedded performance tasks in English language arts and mathematics that surface student learning and allow teachers to make adjustments to instruction throughout the school year.

The resources from these online courses are now available as two Raising the Bar collections.

Each collection includes five videos that follow a teacher and a coach as they work through the formative assessment process, collaborating to clarify learning outcomes, implementing the task, analyzing student data, providing feedback to students, and modifying instruction based on analysis. There are prompts within each video designed to encourage teachers to engage with the content and apply what they are learning to their own practice.

Curriculum-Embedded Performance Task in English Language Arts: Evidence and Elaboration

This collection focuses on a performance task that requires students to read a nonfiction text about fears and phobias, use evidence from the text to support a claim, and elaborate on that evidence in writing. This type of task prepares students for the demands of “full writes” in Smarter Balanced assessments. In addition to the coaching videos the collection includes unit and lesson plans and a classroom video with the coach doing a model lesson.


Curriculum-Embedded Performance Task in Mathematics: Rates and Linearity

In this collection a math teacher and instructional coach plan and use a performance task that requires students to solve problems and justify their mathematical reasoning. The task allows coach and teacher to evaluate students’ levels of proficiency in multiple skills under the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice. In addition to the videos following the coach and teacher through the formative assessment process and the materials they used in their planning and execution, the collection also highlights resources for high-quality mathematics performance tasks.

Using the Video Collections for PD

The videos and supporting materials in these collections are useful resources for teams discussing effective performance tasks, formative assessment processes, and preparing students for college and career. PLCs can watch the videos together and open a dialog about what the teacher/coach did well, areas they saw room for improvement, and how they can plan for effective use of the formative assessment cycle. A PD provider might use the videos in a session that includes structured discussion around key questions related to the specific phase of the assessment cycle addressed in each video.

You can learn more about the BEAL project in How Can Teachers Learn Deeply? By Scoring Student Assessment (Edweek) and in Building a Shared Understanding of Learning (Leadership Magazine, May/June 2015).

And check out Would You Eat a Test for Dinner in our blog, where Tim Shanahan offers his insights on what it takes to turn standards into a rich curriculum that supports learning.

These resources were developed through the Building Educator Assessment Literacy project, a partnership of WestEd and the Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, & Equity with funding from the William and Flora Hewlett, S.D. Bechtel, Jr., and Stuart Foundations. They were designed to support an online course focused on formative assessment practice and mini-performance tasks aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced performance tasks. This course was available to educators and instructional leaders who participated in a two-day professional development event designed to support teachers in understanding Smarter Balanced performance tasks and scoring tools, learning from student responses, and implementing a performance task in their own classrooms.

Senior Program Associate, Center for Prevention & Early Intervention, WestEd