Making Moves: Formative Assessment in Mathematics

October 3, 2017

Research on teacher professional learning has shown that formative assessment can improve student learning more than most instructional practices (Hattie 2012). Empirical evidence indicates that thoughtfully implemented formative assessment practices improve students’ learning, increase students’ scores, and narrow achievement gaps between low-achieving students and others (Black and Wiliam 1998).

Given the role that students’ achievement in middle school mathematics classes can play in college-going trajectories (Balfanz 2009), articulating how formative assessment can support equity in mathematics classrooms is critically important. Some conceptualizations of formative assessment are more explicit than others in their focus on language use (Hakuta, 2013).

In this article we present our conceptualization of formative assessment with the FA Wheel, introduce the FA moves—priming, posing, pausing, probing, bouncing, tagging, and binning—and illustrate the moves at play in one middle school mathematics class. Each of these moves lend themselves to sustaining focus on the development of academic language for all students, which is critical to fostering equity in mathematics learning and teaching.