The Mathematics Improvement Network

Formative Assessment

How can formative assessment improve teaching and learning?

This tool provides professional development leaders with detailed support for a 90-minute session for mathematics teachers, introducing teachers to the principles and practices of formative assessment – including what to do and what to avoid.

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This tool provides detailed support for a 90-minute session for mathematics teachers, introducing them to the principles and practices of formative assessment.


Professional development leaders with mathematics teachers.


Research shows that formative assessment, when done well, has the power to lead to substantial gains in student learning. Many people, however, interpret the term formative assessment as meaning more frequent testing and record keeping. While such activities do have a place, assessment does not become formative unless the feedback it provides the teacher is used to adapt teaching to meet student learning needs as they are revealed, minute-by-minute in the classroom.

Both teachers and students have a role in the assessment process. The definition used in this session of formative assessment describes how:

‘Practice in a classroom is formative to the extent that evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, learners, or their peers, to make decisions about the next steps in instruction that are likely to be better, or better founded, than the decisions they would have taken in the absence of the evidence that was elicited’. (Black & Wiliam, 2009).

This professional development workshop is intended to allow teachers an opportunity to broaden their understanding and consider the practical implications of formative assessment. They examine five strategies of formative assessment, using tasks designed to elicit student misconceptions to give formative feedback and considering active ways in which students can engage in self and peer assessment.

Session Outline


The Presentation Slides contain an embedded video that may not play in older versions of Powerpoint. You can view the video online here:

Students Responding to Feedback

Video from Bowland MathsAssessing the Key Processes courtesy Bowland Trust.