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In FaSMEd, formative assessment is conceived as:
“the process used by teachers and students to recognize and respond to student learning in order to enhance that learning during the learning” (Bell & Cowie, 2001, p.540).

Formative assessment has more recently been referred to as assessment for learning in contrast to summative assessment which is referred to as assessment of learning.

Teachers and students gather information about students’ current levels of understanding and use this to decide what to do next. As such, “assessment can be considered formative only if it results in action by the teacher and students to enhance student learning.” (Bell & Cowie 2001, p.539).

Formative assessment can take place at any stage of teaching, such as, for example, during a whole-class introduction or individual or group work. Formative assessment can be done not only by the teacher but also by students themselves and by their peers.

In summary, Black and Wiliam (2009) state that classroom practices will be formative, if
“evidence about student achievement is elicited, interpreted, and used by teachers, 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, p.9).


  • Bell, B., & Cowie, B. (2001). The characteristics of formative assessment in science education. Science Education, 85(5), 536-553.
  • Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment Evaluation and Accountability, 21(5), 26.

Formative assessment in Science and
Mathematics Education (FaSMEd)
The Research Centre for Learning and Teaching
Newcastle University