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The glossary provides summaries of some of the key terms in the FaSMEd project.

The glossary is also available to download in the following language:

Formative assessment
Formative assessment (or assessment for learning as it sometimes called) , in contrast to ‘summative assessment, is NOT ‘testing’ students but a method of teaching where (Black & Wiliam, 2009): “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). In other words it involves classroom activities where students and teachers are:  “using evidence of learning to adapt teaching and learning to meet immediate needs minute-to-minute and day-by-day” (Wiliam & Thompson, 2007).

Convergent and divergent assessment
Torrance and Pryor (1998) distinguish between convergent and divergent assessment modes (both necessary when fit for purpose):

  • Convergent assessment is accomplished mainly by the teacher who has a precise plan and an intention to stick to it. It involves closed or pseudo-open questions and tasks and feedback focused on summative judgement of performance and the successful completion of the task. Interaction is normally embedded with an Initiation-Response-Feedback sequence
  • Divergent assessment implies an on-going dialogue between and amongst learners and teachers where learners initiate as well as respond. This involves flexible or complex planning which incorporates alternatives and uses primarily open tasks with questioning by teachers and learners directed at helping rather than testing; a focus on understanding and on prompting metacognition.

Design Study/Research
Design-based research (Swan, 2014) is a formative approach in which a product or process (or ‘tool’) is envisaged, designed, developed and refined through cycles of enactment, observation, analysis and redesign, with systematic feedback from end-users. Educational theory is used to inform the design and refinement of the tools, and is itself refined during the research process. Its goals are to create innovative tools for others to use, to describe and explain how these tools function, account for the range of implementations that occur and develop principles and theories that may guide future designs. Ultimately, the goal is transformative; we seek to create new teaching and learning possibilities and study their impact on end-users.

The FaSMEd description of work says: “The expression ‘toolkit’ refers to a set of curriculum materials and methods for pedagogical intervention.”  In practice this may consist of:

    • Curriculum materials:
      • Assessment tasks that make teachers more aware of learning obstacles
      • Sample lesson plans that show how formative assessment may be embedded to help overcome these obstacles
    • Processes for pedagogical interventions:
      • Professional development modules
      • Ways of using the professional development modules

      However, the development of the toolkit, following the method of design research, will evolve as the project progresses.

Case Study
It is intended that the final report and the ‘toolkit’ will include ‘case studies’ to illustrate the development and implementation technologically enhanced formative assessment pedagogy in mathematics and science. “A case study provides a unique example of real people in real situations, enabling readers to understand ideas more clearly than simply by presenting them with abstract theories or principles” (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011 p 289). This may include video of the classroom or of teachers’ meetings.

Professional Development
The FaSMEd position paper on Professional development (PD) warns that PD is perceived and experienced differently across countries.  It is important therefore not to assume too much about expectations and norms in other countries.
However, the position paper then goes on to conclude that there is a high degree of convergence in descriptions of successful professional learning. Typically these include securing interest and engagement from the teachers, providing a theoretical framework for understanding of the innovation/strategy/programme and offering some practical tools to apply to classroom practice.
It also notes that “Professional Learning Communities” (PLC) emerge as one of the most promising formats for professional learning.  This is because the conditions for powerful professional learning, fundamentally require teachers to feel safe to experiment, examine the impact of their experiments, to talk openly and to get down to established principles about effective student learning.

Following Vygotsky (1999) we use the term ‘tool’ and ‘technology’ to mean any artefact (which could be symbolic) which mediates thought and communication. Thus a tool which enhances formative assessment might be a hand gesture (eg: holding up three fingers) used by a class as a mass response or it could be a sophisticated digital instrument.
We distinguish between digital and non-digital technologies and restrict ourselves to digital technologies that research has indicated as better supporting FA. They can be subdivided into Computer Aided Assessment, and the Connected Classroom Technologies.

  • Connected Classroom Technology (CCT) refers to a networked system of personal computers or handheld devices specifically designed  to be used  in  a  classroom for  interactive  teaching  and  learning (Irving, 2006). These technologies include classroom response systems, networked graphing calculators and participatory simulations (Roschelle & Pea, 2002).
    Connected classroom technologies are considered effective in:

    • enabling the teachers to monitor students’ incremental progress and keep them oriented on the path to deep conceptual understanding, providing appropriate remediation to address student needs (Irving 2006, Shirley et al. 2011);
    • supporting student’s positive thinking habits, such as arguing for their point of view (Roschelle et al. 2007), creating immersive learning environments that highlight problem-solving processes (Looney 2010) and giving powerful clues to what students are doing, thinking, and understanding (Roschelle et al. 2004);
    • providing students with immediate private feedback, encouraging them to reflect and monitor their own progress (Roschelle et al. 2007, Looney 2010);enabling a multi-level analysis of patterns of interactions and outcomes thanks to their potential to ‘instrument’ the learning space to collect the content of students’ interaction over longer timespans and over multiple sets of classroom participants (Roschelle & Pea 2002)
  • Computer-aided assessment (or “computer-assisted assessment”) includes all forms of assessments, whether summative or formative, carried out with the help of computers, tablets or handheld devices.
    Charman (1999) has identified different advantages of using Computer Aided Assessment (CAA) for FA in (higher) education:

    •  repeatability;
    • immediacy of response to the student;
    • immediacy of assessment’s results to teachers for monitoring and adaptation;
    • increasing the diversity of assessment;
    • potential for assessments to be used at the most appropriate time;
    • flexibility of access
    • student interest and motivation;
    • student-centered skills and learning

Effective feedback plays a central role in FA processes.
Hattie and Temperley (2007), in their review of the evidence related to the impact of feedback on learning and achievement, conceptualize feedback “as information provided by an agent (e.g., teacher, peer, book, parent, self, experience) regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding.” (p.81). They add that “A teacher or parent can provide corrective information, a peer can provide an alternative strategy, a book can provide information to clarify ideas, a parent can provide encouragement, and a learner can look up the answer to evaluate the correctness of a response. Feedback thus is a “consequence” of performance.” (p.81)
According to Hattie and Temperley (2007), there are four major levels of feedback, and the level at which feedback is produced influences its effectiveness. They distinguish between:

  • feedback about the task, which includes feedback about how well a task is being accomplished or performed;
  • feedback about the processing of the task, which concerns the processes underlying tasks or relating and extending tasks;
  • feedback about self-regulation, which addresses the way students monitor, direct, and regulate actions toward the learning goal;
  • feedback about the self as a person, which expresses positive (and sometimes negative) evaluations and affect about the student.

However, Hattie and Temperley (2007) stress that feedback itself may not have the power to initiate further action because feedback can be accepted, modified, or rejected. In addition, it is not only given by teachers, students, peers, and so on, but “can also be sought by students, peers, and so on, and detected by a learner without it being intentionally sought.” (p.82)


  • Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment Evaluation and Accountability, 21(5), 26.
  • Charman, D. (1999). Issues and impacts of using computer-based assessments (CBAs) for formative assessment. In S. Brown, P. Race & J. Bull (eds.), Computer-assisted Assessment of Students (pp. 85-94). London: Kogan Page.
  • Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research Methods in Education (7th ed.). Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.
  • Irving, K.I. (2006). The Impact of Educational Technology on Student Achievement: Assessment of and for Learning. Science Educator, 15(1), pp. 13-20.
  • Looney, J. (2010). Making it Happen: Formative Assessment and Educational Technologies. Thinking Deeper Research Paper n.1, part 3. Promethean Education Strategy Group.
  • Roschelle, J., and Pea, R. (2002). A walk on the WILD side. How wireless handhelds may change computer-supported collaborative learning. International Journal of Cognition and Technology, 1(1), 145-168.
  • Roschelle, J., Penuel, W.R. and Abrahamson, L. (2004). The networked classroom. Educational Leadership, 61(5), 50-54.
  • Roschelle, J., Tatar, D., Chaudhury, S.R., Dimitriadis, Y. and Patton, C. (2007). Ink, Improvisation, and Interactive Engagement: Learning with Tablets. Computer, 40 (9), 42-48. Published by the IEEE Computer Society
  • Shirley, M., Irving, K.E., Sanalan, V.A., Pape, S.J. and Owens, D. (2011). The practicality of implementing connected classroom technology in secondary mathematics and science classrooms. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 9, 459-481.
  • Swan, M. (2014). Design Research in Mathematics Education. In S. Lerman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Mathematics Education. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • Torrance, H., & Pryor, J. (1998). Investigating Formative Assessment: Teaching, Learning and Assessment in the Classroom. Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • Vygotsky, L. S. (1999). Tool and sign in the development of the child. In R.W.Rieber (Ed.), The collected works of L. S. Vygotsky, (Vol. 6). New York: Kluwer Academic.
  • Wiliam, D., & Thompson, M. (2007). Integrating Assessment with Instruction: What will make it work? In C. Dwyer (Ed.), The Future of Assessment: Shaping Teaching and Learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.



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