Helpful Formative Assessment Examples to Help Your Students Succeed

formative assessment examples

Formative assessment is important because it gives insight into how well your students are doing in a particular subject or area before they’re finished with it and it’s too late. However, it can be tricky to implement and you may not know where to begin. And, it may seem like a lot rides on this type of assessment since you’re using it to inform what happens next, whether that’s moving on to something new, changing course to dive deeper into a concept, or deciding which students need each path.

This is where solid formative assessment examples can come in handy. When you use enough and a variety of these informative tools, you can set your students up for success. Check out some formative assessment examples below, along with everything you need to know about this type of feedback.

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What is Formative Assessment?

When you regularly monitor your students’ learning throughout a process or class, you’re using formative assessment. When you give this type of feedback, students are empowered to identify their strengths and weaknesses and focus on areas that need more work. Teachers are also better equipped to understand where students need help and address smaller issues right away before they turn into larger problems. It’s useful for your students to receive formative assessments so they can improve. It’s also helpful for teachers like you as it offers insight to improve your lessons and teaching strategies.

What is Summative Assessment?

While formative assessment tracks your students’ progress throughout a class, assignment, or project, summative assessment waits until the very end. This type of feedback evaluates their learning after completing a longer-term unit, semester, or another class milestone. Examples can include an exam, a research paper, or a final project. Summative feedback assesses how much a student has learned and compares their progress to a benchmark or standard, like a grade. You can use summative assessments to gauge a course’s effectiveness and improve it for next time.

Benefits of Formative Assessment

formative assessment benefits

There are many benefits of formative assessment.


The idea behind formative assessment is that your student will get it as soon as they’ve completed an activity or shared their knowledge. So, it either confirms a correct answer or understanding and their overall learning, or it highlights an error or mistake right away before it’s solidified in the student’s mind.

Reinforces learning

When a student clearly understands their input as correct or incorrect, their learning is reinforced. Your formative assessment can summarize or restate key points to further this reinforcement, or to provide a review or guidance for students who missed the mark. 

Reduces required effort

Summative assessment requires a bigger cognitive load than formative assessment since its scope is broader and might consider a whole unit, exam, or project. This means your students need to remember more about their answers or submissions when they’re considering your feedback. Doing this takes more time, effort, and willpower than what formative assessment requires since it covers a smaller amount of information and will be fresh in their minds. They can relate formative feedback to what they’re looking at right then and there.

Formative assessments can also guide your students through an example problem, explanation, or concept if they’re struggling, so they can compare it against their answer to see what went wrong.

Gives more certainty

Formative assessment can relieve uncertainty and encourage curiosity and confidence. This is because students know how they’re doing throughout their journey and have an opportunity to ask questions and dive deeper into a topic. It’s key to avoid or lessen uncertainty as it can lead to feelings of anxiety and de-motivation since it’s unpleasant and distracting. Instead, it’s helpful to reduce it and help foster more efficient learning methods and increased motivation.

Improves learning processes and outcomes

Students can be influenced in how they tackle a task by the expectation of receiving quality and effective formative feedback. In fact, a study found that students who expected formative feedback were more systematic in their learning approach, absorbed the material more quickly, and could better apply what they learned than students who did not expect or receive it.

As well, improved outcomes and stronger retention of knowledge happen when students are engaged and process content on a deeper level. Valerie Shute affirms this in her paper that states, when delivered correctly, formative feedback brings “improved learning processes and outcomes.”

Helps you improve

On top of these things, formative feedback helps you improve as a teacher. Since you’ll have timely and relevant feedback on your students, you get the opportunity to tweak your course design, instruction, and lesson plans so they’re more effective and impactful in the future.

How to Effectively Give Formative Assessments

how to give formative feedback

You can help your students succeed by following these tips for formative assessment:

  • Communicate well in advance that the feedback is coming, so there are no surprises.
  • Ensure the feedback is impersonal, unbiased, specific, and clear.
  • Create your feedback in response to solving a problem and focus it on a task or topic, not the student or their actions.
  • Never compare students to one another.
  • Clearly explain why the student’s action was correct or incorrect.

Formative Assessment Tips

No matter which formative assessment examples you choose to use, you’ll want to include both individual and group work strategies. When you observe and listen to your students’ group conversations, you’ll be able to quickly see the problems or misunderstandings they’re experiencing with the course content or topic and you can better address these things right away.

By implementing at least one formative assessment each day, you can evaluate and determine the quality of learning taking place in your classroom. You’ll also understand how your students are evolving in different subjects and what you can do to help them on their journey.

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Formative Assessment Examples

examples of formative feedback

There are many ways you can formatively assess your students, including through interactive classroom activities. Take a look at some great formative assessment examples you can implement right away in your classroom.

Analyzing homework, in-class work, tests, and quizzes

These work well particularly for in-depth or detailed answers and thought processes. When you take time to do this, you’ll better understand your students’:

  • Learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses,
  • Knowledge and viewpoints about a topic, and
  • How much extra help they might need.

Low or no stake pop-quizzes

Low or no-stake quizzes are a great way to gain insight into how much your students, both individually and as a group, actually know about a topic without having it ride on their grade. When you mark quizzes with low or no points, it tends to motivate students. They feel the quiz matters but that single score can’t impact their final grade much, if at all.

Anonymous polls

Secret or anonymous polls allow students to respond quickly and is great for those who are shy or have a hard time speaking up.

Brief reports or summaries

These help avoid student failure before it gets to quiz or test time. They answer a question on a certain subject and can be done in groups or individually. Have students write three different summary lengths of 10-15 words, 30-50 words, and 75-100 words, so they get used to brevity and remembering and sharing more detailed information. Your question can focus on a lesson’s main idea, unanswered questions, most surprising takeaway, most confusing concept, or a question that might come up on the next test.

Strategic questioning

Strategic questioning involves answering higher-order questions that require deep thinking, like those starting with “how” and “why”. This form of questioning can offer a lot of insight into your students’ pain points.


This is a very simple assessment. You begin by asking a question, and students record their responses. You then put them into pairs to discuss their thoughts while you work your way through and listen to each group as they share with each other.

3–2–1 Countdown

This formative assessment tests your students’ learning in a relevant and meaningful way. They will verbally respond to three prompts, like:

  • 3 things I didn’t know before
  • 2 things that surprised me about the topic or 2 things I’d still like to know
  • 1 thing I want to start doing with what I’ve learned

Entry and exit tickets

Entry and exit tickets are small slips of paper (or messages in the chat, for online classes) that are submitted at the beginning and end of class. The entry ticket at the start of class contains student responses to questions about homework or the previous day’s lesson. For the exit ticket, students write down their interpretation of the lesson’s main idea and some details about it. You can also ask students to record their experience through prompts like:

  • How would you have changed things today, if you could go back?
  • I found ____ interesting about the work we did today.
  • Right now I feel ____ because ____.
  • Today was difficult because ____.

When you review the results, you can sort them into three categories: students who understood the point, students who somewhat got the idea, and students who missed the mark. You’ll know where to focus based on your largest group.

Creative or artistic projects

Projects using art or creativity are an excellent way for your students to show their understanding of a full concept. It doesn’t have to be complicated and can take anywhere from an hour to a full day. Students could deliver a presentation, make a collage or poster, record a skit or podcast, create a diorama and narrative, or write flashcards to test one another.

As well, some of your students might be more artistically inclined and would benefit from photography or visual art for their assessments. Things like drawing, collaging, sculpting, photographing, or even acting or dancing can really help tie their learning together.

Highlighting key points

This can effectively assess your students’ understanding of a written resource. In this individual and small-group activity, each student reads the same written passage and highlights sentences that stand out to them as interesting or important. When everyone is finished, divide the class into groups of three or four. In their group, students will share the sentences they highlighted. As they do this, they should be identifying the resource’s main point or idea and share it with the entire class, which will help you understand their general understanding.

Discussion or interview assessment

This type of formative assessment helps you dig deeper into where your students are at. Simply take a few minutes with students about the lessons or assignments you feel they’d benefit from some guidance on. You could also have students use a peer feedback method called TAG: Tell your partner one thing they did well, Ask something thoughtful, Give a positive suggestion. Then, your students can also share the feedback they received from their partner and you’ll have insight into more of your students.


Self-assessment shouldn’t be overlooked, since your students know themselves best and can often point out their own strengths and weaknesses. You can narrow down a few weak areas for the class as a whole, and have each student self-select where they feel they’re struggling the most. You could even use color-coded stickies: green means they’re doing well, yellow means they have some confusion in certain areas, and red means they’re very confused and need help. When your whole class has self-assessed and you see the results visually, you’ll instantly know which are the real problem areas.

Grading each other’s work

When students grade one another’s work, they increase their understanding of a topic or concept. You simply ask a question that has a clear-cut, objective answer that can be explained in 2-3 sentences. Students should stay anonymous and not record their names. When they turn in their responses, randomize them and hand them back for students to mark themselves. As they grade the random submission, their comprehension of the topic will be improved. At the end, check how many answers were correct so you have an idea of where your class is at as a group.

Formative Assessment FAQs

What is formative assessment vs summative assessment?

Formative assessment involves regularly monitoring your students’ learning throughout a process, assignment, or class duration. With this, students are empowered to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses and focus on where they’re struggling. As a teacher, you can better understand where students need help right away. Summative assessment occurs at the end of a longer-term unit, final exam, semester, or another class milestone. It evaluates what a student has learned and compares their progress to a benchmark, like a grade.

Why should I use formative assessment?

Formative assessment:

  • Is timely and relevant for the task you’re working on.
  • Reinforces learning.
  • Reduces the effort required of students.
  • Gives students more certainty about how they’re doing.
  • Improves learning processes and outcomes.
  • Helps you improve as a teacher, since you know what’s working and what isn’t and can adjust accordingly.

What are some formative assessment examples?

Here are some examples of individual and group formative assessments:

  • Analyzing homework, in-class work, tests, and quizzes
  • Low or no stake pop-quizzes
  • Anonymous polls
  • Brief reports or summaries
  • Strategic questioning
  • Think-Pair-Share
  • 3–2–1 Countdown
  • Entry and exit tickets
  • Creative projects
  • Highlighting key points
  • Discussion or interview assessment
  • Self-assessment
  • Grading each other’s work

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