Why Formative Assessment Makes You Learn Faster

Recent studies in education highlights the impact of formative assessment on students’ learning.

Formative assessment is “a process that takes place continuously during the course of teaching and learning to provide teachers and students with feedback to close the gap between current learning and desired goals” (Heritage, 2010, p. 10).

When implemented in teaching, it begins when the learner and teacher understands the target of the learning. The present performance of the student is determined in relation to the goal. The students and  teacher then take action to move the learner closer towards the goal bringing about progress in their learning.

This is done through constant feedback, continuous assessment and revision. The student in the process of feedback and constant revision satisfies their academic needs and starts regulating their abilities to further reach the goals of learning (Stigler, 2010).

Students start to become conscious about the quality of their work, use learning strategies to reach their goals, and they become in control of their own learning. In other words, self-regulation is developed in the process of strengthening students’ learning in formative assessment. The focus of this article is to highlight how formative assessment is explicitly manifested when students goes through formative assessment.

Clark’s (2012) theory of formative assessment explains that achievement is attained through formative assessment when learners become self-regulated. What is central in the formative assessment theory of Clark is the action of feedback. The interaction of feedback and self-regulation is an internalization of external feedback that generates further internal feedback. The internalization process is the self-regulation developing as the individual engages in the formative assessment.

Part of the formative assessment process is to activate students as owners of their own learning (Black & Wiliam, 2009). The activation of learning is described by Bokaerts and Corno (2005) as bottom-up where it is triggered by a form of feedback. This feedback comes from the environment that restores and maintains growth. When learners continuously receive feedback, they gradually internalize their learning goals and see themselves progressing towards the standards. They start to monitor their progress through self-assessment, planning before revising, checking whether their work is acceptable, organizing their work during the revision stage, and structuring their environment to meet the goals, they exhibit self-regulation (Magno, 2009).

Self-regulation is shown during formative assessment when students use an array of learning strategies to achieve their goal. Effective strategies are selected by students in order to improve their work after receiving feedback or corrective instruction. The learner starts to become conscious of what self-regulation strategies will work and will not work in order to perform the task well. In order to meet the goal, the learner needs to listen to the teacher’s feedback, focus on doing their task according to the assessment criteria, and recall teacher’s corrective instruction (Magno, 2009, 2010). The table shows the manifestation academic self-regulation during formative assessment:

Memory Strategy Efforts to remember the instructional correctives provided.
Goal-setting Setting of goals and planning for sequencing, timing, and completing activities.
Self-evaluation Welcoming feedback from others to improve one’s work.

Continuous self-assessment of one’s work to attain improvement.

Monitoring ones work for progress.

Seeking assistance Initiate help from peers, teachers, adults, searching and using resources.
Environmental Structuring Select or arrange the physical setting to make learning easier.

Avoiding distractions and focusing on ones work.

Learning responsibility Prioritizing academic-related tasks.

Concerned with deadlines.

Organizing Transforming of information to accommodate one’s learning.

Anticipating the type of assessment that will take place.



Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (2009). Developing the theory of formative assessment. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 21(1), 5–31.

Boekaerts, M., & Corno, L. (2005). Self-regulation in the classroom: A perspective on assessment and intervention. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 54(2), 199–231.

Clark, I. (2007). Formative assessment: Assessment is for self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24, 205-249.

Heritage, M. (2010). Formative assessment: Making it happen in the classroom. CA: Corwin, A Sage company.

Magno, C. (2009). Developing and assessing self-regulated learning. The Assessment Handbook: Continuing Education Program, 1, 26-42.

Stigler, J. W. (2010). Formative assessment: Making it happen in the classroom. CA: Corwin.


Dr. Carlo Magno is president of the Philippine Educational Measurement and Evaluation Association. Most of his work is in line with academic self-regulation, formative assessment, learner-centered principles, and standards of teacher performance.