Formative assessments provide invaluable information that could inform instruction and help teachers provide more focused support to students in areas of need. However, we need to make sure that what we are assessing is in alignment with the content standards that we are responsible for teaching.
Classroom assessments follow classroom assignments and activities which need to work together to provide students a quality instructional program. In fact, it would be ideal to design an opportunity for students to show what they understand and/or can do as part of every task and assignment. In an online article in the Phi Beta Kappan entitled, "In the Black Box", authors Black and Wiliam assert, "To begin at the beginning, the choice of tasks for classroom work and homework is important. Tasks have to be justified in terms of the learning aims that they serve, and they can work well only if opportunities for pupils to communicate their evolving understanding are built into the planning. Discussion, observation of activities, and marking of written work can all be used to provide those opportunities, but it is then important to look at or listen carefully to the talk, the writing, and the actions through which pupils develop and display the state of their understanding. Thus we maintain that opportunities for pupils to express their understanding should be designed into any piece of teaching, for this will initiate the interaction through which formative assessment aids learning."
In The Intersection of Instruction and Assessment: The Classroom, Niyogi describes the characteristics of high-quality classroom-based assessments. "Assessment should be used not simply to judge how much kids know but to illuminate the nature of their knowledge and understandings in order to help kids learn…. Common sense tells us that on-going, classroom-based assessment can serve this purpose. Teachers interacting with students will observe the nuances of their cognitive growth and development over time, their individual strengths and weaknesses in ways that would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to capture through standardized or conventional testing alone."