Importance of using homework as formative assessment

Formative assessment (also known as 'educative assessment') is used in education to identify a suitable program of learning for the individual or class.

Black and Wiliam defined formative assessment as an assessment "where the feedback from learning activities is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet the learner's needs."

Formative assessment is best carried out continuously throughout a course or project. Formative assessment is thus used to aid learning.

Formative assessment is not a one way process.

The giving of feedback is integral to the process of formative assessment and many educatiors have looked for structured, regularised formula for delivering formative assessment. However it is my belief that in homework, the teacher already has the system in place for carrying out rigourous formative assessment without any substantial addition to the workload.

Using homework as formative assessment

By spending a little bit of time thinking about formative assessment when constructing homework questions, a teacher can covertly carry out formative assessment without disrupting the smooth running of the school day.

The pupils gain from a less stressful day, because the innteruption of regular teaching for a session of silent examination has been shown to be one of the most stressful things a pupil can encounter in school.

Of course, since homework is not supervised by the teacher, there is an issue over parents helping pupils. Research has shown that if a child is having difficulty with homework, the child can positively benefit from parental intervention. However this at first would seem to invalidate the formative assessment aims. The best advice is to engage the parents in the process, explaining the formative role of the homework and advising on how much intervention is appropriate.

As we said earlier, formative assessment is a two way street and so handing back homework with nothing more than "V.G. 8/10" scrawled on the front cannot be considered formative assessment. The child requires to be told how they can improve their learning too.